Health Minister Leo Varadkar: 'Commercial surrogacy will be banned in Ireland under new law'
Commercial surrogacy will be banned in Ireland - and parents who choose to go through with such services abroad will face penalties, Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said.
Speaking on RTE Radio One's 'Morning Ireland' programme earlier today, the Health Minister said his main priority in publishing new legislation is helping ensure Irish parents have access to properly regulated infertility services, and the welfare of the child is paramount.
Mr Varadkar said his department have published the heads of bill relating to infertility treatments, surrogacy and the permitting of stem cell research.
The draft heads of bill will go out for a period of public consultation before going in front of Oireachtas health committee, headed up by Jerry Buttimer TD, for public debate before draft legislation is drawn up.
The subject "deserves proper debate", Mr Varadkar said, adding that it was highly unlikely the legislation would be in place before the 2016 General Election.
Speaking in an interview with broadcaster Cathal MacCoille, Mr Varadlkar agreed that the subject should have been dealt with a decade ago but "perhaps there was a fear it would raise some complicated and ethical issues".
"But I'm not afraid so we're going to go ahead and do that," he said.
Mr Varadkar said they wanted to "make sure it's safe" and that "medical technology and medical services have gone way ahead of legislation in this area".
"We want to make sure people are protected, that the welfare of children is paramount and that these services are available to people but are properly regulated and safe."
"The current law is that the birth mother who gives birth to the child is the mother.
"That won't change. But what will change is that there will be a mechanism to allow for the transfer of parentage if the adults involved agree that that should happen," he added.
"At the moment the birth mother is the mother and then the genetic parents have to adopt their own child.
"What we will do is establish a new legal mechanism that doesn't require them to adopt their own child.
"If there is agreement, particularly agreement of the surrogate that parentage be transferred, then that can be done without having to go through an adoption procedure. It will be a very simple court procedure," he said.
"But the basic principles in all this legislation is that, first of all, the welfare of the child should come first and those who want to avail of surrogacy would have to be suitable to be parents.
"Consent will be required at all stages so the surrogate will be able to withdraw consent all the way up to the point of the transfer of parentage and after the child is born, they will be able to keep the child," he said.
He stressed that commercial surrogacy will be banned in Ireland.
"There will be no commercial surrogacy under any circumstances so this will only be on an altruistic basis and this will be non-discriminatory, it won't discriminate against people on the basis of their relationship status or their gender or their sexual orientation."
Whereby 'altruistic' surrogacy is carried out, the name of the birth mother will appear on the birth cert at first, under the proposed new legislation. A transfer of parentage, which is agreed between all parties, will allow for the birth cert to be re-issued in the name of the genetic parents.
Regarding commercial surrogacy, Mr Varadkar said this will be illegal. "It will be an offence and there will be penalties attached to it," the minister warned.
If Irish parents availed of commercial surrogacy abroad, Mr Varadkar explained that the child of two genetic Irish parents would be entitled to Irish citizenship. The fact that his or her parents availed of commercial surrogacy in another country is "not the fault of the child".
Mr Varadkar said in such cases, he would "facilitate transfer of parentage of children born to surrogates abroad" but there will be penalties attached to it.
Mr Varadkar stated that at present, there was nothing to stop commercial surrogacy in Ireland as there was "big legal limbo" in place.