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David Quinn: We can't have one child with five parents – surrogacy should be banned just like in most of EU

When Louise Brown was presented to the world more than 30 years ago as the first 'test tube' baby there was general delight all round.

Who wouldn't be happy at the sight of a healthy, bouncing baby and her happy parents? Since then hundreds of thousands of children have been born as a result of IVF and other assisted reproduction techniques.

Everything seemed very simple until recently. But now the grown-up children of IVF are telling their stories and things have become much more complicated.

Tens of thousands of these children are looking for their biological parents. Although most children that result from IVF and the like are the biological children of the couple being treated, in roughly 10pc of cases the egg or sperm of a stranger is used. Most often there is no way for the child to find out who that stranger is.

Those grown-up children wonder why their right to know who their biological parents are was deliberately violated.

For the last two weeks the High Court has been hearing a case involving a couple who used another woman – a surrogate mother - to have a child for them.

The couple's own egg and sperm was used so the child is biologically theirs. However, in almost every jurisdiction only the woman who gives birth to a child is recognised as the child's biological mother.

Until very recently this made perfect sense because it was absolutely impossible to carry in your womb a child who was not genetically your own.

This made it easy to uphold the legal principle, 'the mother is always certain'. The birth mother was the mother, full stop.

But is the birth mother really the mother if she is not the genetic mother also? Should it not be her name that is recorded on the birth cert? This is what our High Court has to consider.

The Iona Institute (which I head) has just produced a paper on the issue of surrogate motherhood and outlines the legal regime that exists in most other European countries.

The fact is that most other European countries – including France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Norway – simply ban the practice altogether because they believe it is wrong in principle to 'split' motherhood. If you don't split motherhood the sort of questions currently before the High Court can't even arise.

The European Court of Human Rights recently considered the issue and ruled that countries were entitled to ban the practice.

Germany told the court it banned surrogacy in order to "protect the child's welfare by ensuring the unambiguous identity of the mother. Splitting motherhood into a genetic and a biological mother would result in two women having a part in the creation of a child. This would be an absolute novelty in nature and in the history of mankind".

The Germans also said: "Split motherhood is contrary to the child's welfare because the resulting ambiguity of the mother's identity might jeopardise the development of the child's personality and lead to considerable problems in his or her discovery of identity."

That's the nub of it, and for these sorts of reasons, France is particularly strict about the matter. If a couple goes overseas in order to circumvent the French prohibition, they will not recognise the couple as the parents of the child although the child will receive certain legal protections.

We have no regulation in this area. The Assisted Human Reproduction Commission set up by Micheal Martin made a series of recommendations back in 2005. It recommended one of the most permissive laws in Europe.

It said that the commissioning couple, that is the couple who commission a woman to give birth to a baby for them, must be recognised as the parents of the baby.

But this couple, in the eyes of the commission, need not have any genetic relationship with the child, giving rise to the possibility that a child could have five 'parents', namely the birth mother, the genetic mother, the genetic father and the two people who actually raise the child.

It is sometimes said that adoption also 'splits' motherhood but we permit adoption nonetheless. However, adoption and surrogacy are completely different. In the case of adoption a loving home is sought for a child who already exists and otherwise would not have a home.

In the case of surrogacy the intention before the child is even conceived is to split motherhood between at least two women.

Assisted human reproduction must always have the interests of children front and centre. No child should ever be deliberately deprived of either one of its biological parents. I stress deliberately, because obviously circumstance can deprive a child of its natural parents.

Likewise, no child should ever have to wonder who is my 'real' mother, my birth mother or genetic mother, as a result of the deliberate design of adults.

Our Government needs to copy the example of countries like France and Germany and prohibit surrogacy in the interests of children.

Irish Independent