Ireland should become a world leader by regulating and recognising international surrogacy, a landmark Oireachtas committee report has said.
A draft report of the Oireachtas international surrogacy committee, seen by the Irish Independent, has proposed a two-step process which would allow those who have a child through a surrogate from another country to be legally recognised as the child’s parents in Ireland.
New proposals would also apply retrospectively, meaning parents of Irish children already born through international surrogacy would finally have a legal relationship with their children.
The report, which is still being finalised ahead of its publication on July 7, has said that surrogacy should be legal in the country that Irish parents are using; the reproductive rights of a surrogate must be respected, and the surrogacy should altruistic rather than commercial.
But the guidelines would require intending parents to cover a surrogate’s “reasonable expenses”, including “loss of earnings, specific food and supplements to meet recommended dietary requirements, and payment for domestic labour which her pregnancy precludes her from doing”.
There have been concerns about the welfare of women in poorer countries who are paid to be commercial surrogates for couples in western countries such as Ireland.
The draft report said that while Ireland “cannot control how surrogacy occurs elsewhere”, by having a framework in place here “we can try to guide intended parents towards safer and more ethical surrogacies".
The international surrogacy committee was given three months to consider the rights and welfare of international surrogates and of children born through international surrogacy, and the rights, interests and obligations of intended parents.
In her introduction to the report, Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore, the committee chair, said that while a new bill would provide for domestic surrogacy, many parents would still use international surrogacy, and failing to regulate the area “could see children, surrogates and intending parents left exposed to exploitation”.
“It is my hope that Ireland can take a lead in this very important global issue by tackling this complex, yet important, area,” she said.
Under recommendations proposed by the committee, individuals or couples would need to follow a two-step parental order process in order to be legally recognised as a child’s parents in Ireland following a birth through international surrogacy.
The first step will require intended parents to register a written surrogacy agreement with a new Assisted Human Reproduction Regulatory Authority (AHRAA) before conception.
Parents would have to provide proof of a written agreement with their surrogate, evidence of their surrogate’s financial position, as well as proof that she has had access to independent legal and medical advice and counselling, which the intended parents have paid for.
Details of any compensation to be paid to the surrogate, plus all details required for a national surrogacy register would also be needed.
In addition, the Department of Foreign Affairs would have to be informed, so that an emergency travel certificate can be issued to bring the child to Ireland. If the AHRAA is satisfied with the evidence, a pre-authorisation certificate will be issued.
The second step requires a remote court hearing to take place to consider the application for a parental order before the family return to Ireland.
The committee believes that new regulations for international surrogacy should be included in the upcoming Assisted Human Reproduction Bill.