Saturday 16 December 2017

Supreme Court to fast-track case as State appeals surrogacy ruling

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE Supreme Court is set to rule on a landmark surrogacy action involving twin girls.

Earlier this year the High Court ruled that the genetic mother of the girls – born to the woman's sister who acted as surrogate – could be named as their mother on their birth certificates.

But in a highly anticipated move, the State – which has appeared twice before the European Court of Justice this year in relation to surrogacy matters – has appealed the High Court ruling.

The case – the first of its kind to come before the Irish courts – is expected to be fast-tracked by the Supreme Court as there are hundreds of mothers whose children were born to surrogates seeking to secure legal parenthood of their children.

Despite a 2005 report on assisted human reproduction (AHR), there are no laws in this country governing a range of sensitive reproductive issues such as surrogacy, IVF treatment and embryonic stem cells.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter is preparing a new Family Relationships and Children Bill that will address certain aspects of the law on surrogacy.

But last night the Department of Social Protection, led by Minister Joan Burton, said that "while extremely mindful of the family" at the centre of the case, the Government agreed that the case should be appealed to clarify a number of points of law of exceptional public importance.

"The judgment raises important questions about how motherhood may be determined under Irish law and has potentially very serious consequences which could, by linking motherhood exclusively to genetic connection, affect a potentially large number of families," it said in a statement.

"It may also have the effect of tying the hands of the Oireachtas in how it may legislate, in the future, for the complex areas of surrogacy and assisted human reproduction".

Niall O'Flaherty, whose daughter Ava (2) was born to a surrogate mother in India, said the Government needs to provide legal clarity for commissioning parents.

After 15 years of failed IVF, Mr O'Flaherty and his wife Caroline travelled in 2010 to the Akanksha Clinic in India, run by artificial reproduction expert Dr Nanya Patel.

Dr Patel, whose clinic receives queries from eight infertile couples each week, will travel to Ireland next month to meet with prospective commissioning parents.

LIMBO

"There is no excuse, we need to legislate and provide clarity for couples who are in legal limbo," said Mr O'Flaherty.

He added that the Government has known about the legal difficulties for parents of children born through surrogacy "for years".

Earlier this year, the mother of the twins won her High Court challenge to the Chief Registrar's refusal to recognise her as their legal mother.

The woman and her husband had their embryos implanted in her sister's womb and she later gave birth to twins who are being raised by the couple.

Irish Independent

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