'We don't know what would happen if I died' - Same sex parents not legally connected to their biological children
Many biological parents in same sex couples are not legally connected to their children and new legislation fails to resolve the situation.
The new laws will allow for some same sex couples to both be registered as parents. The only people it will apply to however are female couples who have conceived in an Irish Fertility clinic using an identifiable donor.
Many couples are not afforded the right to both be registered as parents under the new rule. Ranae Von Meding is part of one such couple.
Together with her wife Audrey, she has two daughters, Ava (2) and Arya (3 months). Ranae and Audrey used Reciprocal IVF, which means Audrey's eggs were used to conceive the children while Ranae carried the children until birth.
As a result, Audrey is their biological parent while Ranae is considered their birth parent. Ranae told the Independent.ie that Audrey is not legally considered the children’s parent however, and that many of the things heterosexual parents take for granted do not apply to her.
“My wife has no legal connection to our children. You would have as much legal connection to our children as she does,” she said.
“She has no legal connections. She is not allowed sign any legal consent forms, school forms, for vaccinations, for bank accounts or anything financial, there are ramifications for inheritance and wills, all of that.
The new legislation is likely to come into effect by the end of the year but according to Ranae, it will not remedy this.
“There is legislation that was passed in 2015 that hopefully will be coming in by the end of the year. There was a big push and a lot of headlines saying ‘equality for everybody’ but it’s not going to be for everybody.”
“We had to go abroad for reciprocal IVF because it’s not available in Ireland. Because we went abroad and because it was reciprocal IVF, we won’t be covered. Female couples who have done an at-home insemination won’t be covered. Female couples who have used a known donor or an anonymous one won’t be covered and all all-male couples are totally excluded as well.
“There is no legislation there for us. Someone has knowingly looked at the situation and said ‘these families are worthy or recognition but everybody else isn’t’. We’re going to be knowingly discriminated against further.”
Audrey, like anybody else, can be named as guardian to the children given that she has lived over two years with them. While this offers a safety net in the case of her two-year-old Ava, if something was to happen to Ranae, she would not be legal guardian of her three-month-old Arya.
“We don’t know what would happen if, God forbid, I was to die,” Ranae said.
“Technically Audrey would not be next in line to get her. Possibly one of my family members would be. Legally she is not next in line.
“It’s this weird Catch-22. I’m married and my children have two parents but they are only seen as having one legally. I’m seen as a single parent but I can’t claim for single parents allowance because I’m married.”
Ranae said that if she and Audrey were a heterosexual couple, there would be no issue in both being legally named as parents. Audrey’s lack of legal connection to her children is discrimination, she says.
“It’s no-one’s business how anyone was conceived,” she said.
“If you’re a heterosexual couple, that’s never asked. A heterosexual couple could have used a sperm donor or and egg donor or loads of different things but because they are heterosexual people just assume how their child was conceived. The only person who has a right to know is the child.
“At the moment if a man and woman went for IVF in another country and had a child, regardless of whether they are both biological parents, and they might both be infertile, but they’re both put on the birth cert no questions asked.
“For them to say no the child has to be conceived in Ireland, that’s not fair. They couldn’t say to a heterosexual couple, ‘oh no your child is not worthy of having both parents recognised because it wasn’t conceived in Ireland.”
Ranae said that despite three years of attempted communication with Minister of Health, Simon Harris, the only response they receive is that the Department of Health could not regulate when conception happened outside of the state.
Couples are emigrating to countries with more accommodating laws, she says, and won’t return until they can be legally considered parents in Ireland.
“The answer we keep getting is they can’t regulate anything that happens outside of the state. I don’t believe that because the UK has amazing laws, Australia does, Canada does, and the US does. My wife would be named there as a parent no questions asked.
“I know a lot of people who have emigrated to the UK and have not come back because of these laws. There was a male couple who used a surrogate in Canada and they’ll never come back to Ireland unless the laws change. Why would you live in a country that doesn’t recognise you as a family?
“It shouldn’t matter how a child was conceived or in what country a child was conceived. It’s bizarre that they are saying it has to be in Ireland because a lot of people travel for IVF for financial reasons. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper in a lot of other countries.”
In an effort to urge Mr Harris to take their plight seriously and to open up a conversation, Ranae has started an online petition, which she hopes will get over 20,000 signatures (link here).
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Health told Independent.ie that parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 contains provisions relating to the regulation of donor-assisted human reproduction (DAHR) procedures and to parentage in the case of children born as a result of those procedures.
They said officials in the department are working towards putting in place "a number of important administrative and operational arrangements that are essential for the implementation" of these two parts of the legislation.
They added; "Once the conditions for the two parts ('Parentage of a child born as a result of a donor-assisted human reproduction' and 'Retrospective declarations of parentage') are in place, the mother of the child and the intending parent may jointly (in District Court) or separately (in Circuit Court) apply to the relevant Court to make a declaration under section 21 (District Court) or section 22 (Circuit Court) that the intending parent is a parent of the relevant child."