Monday 18 November 2019

Irish fertility clinic offers 'shared motherhood' service

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Female same-sex couples in Ireland are being offered a "shared motherhood" fertility treatment by a Dublin clinic.

It means one of the partners can be the "genetic mother" and the other the "gestational mother".

The service from the Sims IVF clinic in Clonskeagh, Dublin, is another example of how technology is racing ahead and providing advanced fertility choices to LGBT families as the law tries to catch up.

It follows a warning by LGBT groups earlier this week that new regulations coming into force in May, allowing same-sex couples to put both their names on their child's birth certificate, will only benefit around half those who are parents.

The new "shared motherhood" service, launched by Dr John Kennedy, group medical director of the Sims clinic, allows the eggs from one partner to be used to create embryos after being fertilised in vitro with donor sperm.

The fertilised embryos can then be transferred to the other partner.

Dr Kennedy said to his knowledge "there is no fertility clinic providing shared motherhood or reciprocal IVF as a service for same-sex lesbian couples in Ireland.

"It affords both mothers to share in the unique DNA and birthing experience of a child."

A number of couples have already signed up for the treatment.

Health Minister Simon Harris announced earlier this week that sections of the Children and Family Relationships Act will come into effect in May which aim to end the legal limbo faced by many same-sex couple who have children.

However, the parents must be two women, the sperm donor has to be traceable and the child born in Ireland. It still leaves two male parents, a transgender parent, children born through surrogacies and others out in the cold.

The two most relevant pieces of legislation governing these families are the Children and Family Relationships Act and the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill.

However, the latter, which would regulate fertility treatments and surrogacy, continues to make slow progress and there is no timetable for when it will become law.

The legislation will have implications for heterosexual as well as LGBT couples. A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that in October 2017, the Government approved the drafting of a bill on assisted human reproduction and associated areas of research.

This is based on the published general scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill.

"The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health published the report of its review of the general scheme on July 11, 2019, as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process, which began in January 2018. The committee makes 11 recommendations.

"Given the comprehensive scope of the legislation and the ethical, legal and social issues which arise from AHR practices, it is anticipated that certain areas of the general scheme will require further consideration and refinement during the ongoing process of drafting the bill in conjunction with the office of the Attorney General.

"The Joint Committee's report and its recommendations will be considered as part of this process."

The spokesman said that "it is not possible at this time to give a definitive timeline for the passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

"However, this legislation is a ministerial priority and will be progressed as soon as possible."

Irish Independent

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