Thursday 13 December 2018

'Parent' will be an option instead of 'mother' or 'father' on birth certificates

  • New birth certificates to feature different wording
  • Measures also being introduced to ban anonymous donations of sperm, eggs and embryos
  • 'The right to know your genetic parentage is a key human right'
Paschal Donohoe made the announcement today
Paschal Donohoe made the announcement today
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

New birth certificates will soon allow for the word 'parent' to be used instead of 'father' or 'mother'.

The move means same-sex couples will be able to register both of their names on their baby's birth certificate.

Measures are also being introduced to ban anonymous donations of sperm, eggs and embryos and to allow donor-conceived children to request information about their genetic parentage from the age of 18.

Traditionally, birth certificates have used the terms mother and father, meaning one parent in a same-sex couple was not able to register as a parent.

This has created significant difficulties for same-sex couples, particularly when it comes to getting passports for their children.

Under changes intended to be introduced this autumn, the terms mother and father will be retained, but there will also be the option to use the term 'parent' instead.

In a statement to the Irish Independent, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said: "The words 'mother' and 'father' will not be replaced. There will, however, be an additional option to use the term 'parent' for any parent, who, where appropriate, wants to avail of it.

"The main reason for the change is to facilitate registration of births for same-sex couples that would include the details of both parents in the birth registration."

The change cannot happen until two parts of the Children and Family Relations Act 2015 are commenced by Health Minister Simon Harris.

The statement said officials were working to ensure the appropriate regulatory and operational mechanisms were in place to allow for the earliest possible commencement of these parts of the act.

The Government's Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Dr Geoffrey Shannon, described the measures as "a significant positive step forward". He said the act sought to provide for the best interests of children in donor- assisted situations by ensuring it was clear who were the child's legal parents.

Dr Shannon also said the ban on anonymous donations and provisions allowing donor-conceived children to request information on the identity of the donor were also important developments.

He said Ireland had "a dark history" when it came to the tracing of genetic parents, as could be seen from various controversies in the area of adoption. The new measures, he said, "will be an opportunity to draw a line in the sand in so far as the past is concerned and to establish a new regime where we value the right of a person to know who their genetic parents are".

"The right to know your genetic parentage is a key human right," he said.

Under the act, children conceived with the assistance of a donor will be able to get information about their origins once they reach the age of 18.

This information will be kept by the registrar of births, and a child will be able to request the name, date of birth and contact details of the donor.

However, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission believes children should be able to request this information at an earlier age if they are sufficiently mature.

Irish Independent

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