Senators clash over proposed surrogacy laws

ireland
Senators Clash Over Proposed Surrogacy Laws Senators Clash Over Proposed Surrogacy Laws
The support applies to both parents. Photo: PA Images
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By Cate McCurry, PA

An Oireachtas committee on international surrogacy had to be suspended earlier after a row broke out among Senators.

Independent Sharon Keogan was accused of disrespecting a witness by claiming it isn't everyone's right to have a child, and it is a privilege.

Senator Keogan refused to apologise for the incident and was asked to leave the meeting by the Sinn Fein chair - Deputy Kathleen Funchion.

During Thursday's hearing, the committee was told that proposed legislation to regulate surrogacy in Ireland does create a mechanism to recognise children as the legal children of both parents.

Ciara Merrigan, chair of Irish Families Through Surrogacy, said there is a “big gap” in the current proposed legislation which does not allow for a legal parent-child relationship to be established.

Appearing before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on International Surrogacy, she said that Ireland has an opportunity to be “a world leader” in recognising the rights of children born through surrogacy.

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Ms Merrigan, who is a mother to three-year-old twins who were born through international surrogacy, said that under current Irish law, the surrogate mother is viewed as her children’s mother.

A child places a hand on the stomach of a pregnant woman.

There are no laws in the Republic to govern domestic or international surrogacy.

The Oireachtas committee has been charged with developing fresh proposals to fix the gap in Irish law.

The Assisted Human Reproduction Bill currently going through the Oireachtas is seeking to regulate surrogacy and other reproductive areas.

It would allow for “altruistic” surrogacy in Ireland only.

Ms Merrigan said: “Under Irish law, the surrogate is seen as our twins’ mother, although she’s not genetically related to them, nor does she live in the state.

“What we can legislate for are the safeguards and protection expected for the surrogate mother, children and intended parents.

“A big gap in the proposed legislation means there is not a mechanism in law to create a legal parent relationship for children born through surrogacy so that the child has a legal link with both parents.

 

“We have learned from other jurisdictions on how this can be overcome.

“This is Ireland’s opportunity to be a world leader, to recognise the diverse and evolving nature of modern families and to legislate appropriately.

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“Effectively as it stands, our children only have one parent, their father in the state who can provide legal protection and stability.”

Claire O’Connell, an LGBT Ireland board member, warned that the Bill in its current form will exclude anyone in a current surrogacy agreement, or those that will take place until the commencement of the Bill, and those that take place internationally.

“This will primarily impact couples or individuals experiencing infertility, and countless male couples who wish to parent a child together,” she added.

Elaine Cohalan, chairperson of Equality for Children which represents LGBTQ parents who conceive children through donor assisted human reproduction, told the committee that Irish relationships and families are no longer being created in the “traditional chronological order of yesterday”.

Ms Cohalan is married to her wife, Jenny and they have a three-year-old daughter, who was conceived using assisted human reproduction.

“We need a system where all parties are treated with dignity and respect, where the surrogate mother and intended parents receive independence, legal and medical advice, entering into the arrangement freely with informed consent, receive counselling and support throughout the process,” she added.

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“Where the surrogate mother has their welfare and best interests at the heart of the system, has full bodily autonomy throughout the process, does not bear legal, social or financial responsibility for the child once they’re born and is protected and safeguarded throughout the process.

“Where the child has their best interests protected, has access to the information on their genetic history.

“They should not be labelled, categorised or treated differently because of the method of their conception or gestation.

“Our families are families, not different.”

Meanwhile, a senator was asked to leave the committee room after she was accused of disrespecting the witnesses.

Independent senator Sharon Keogan said Irish law should not “whitewash” or “airbrush” the surrogate mothers from the recognition process.

Ms Cohalan urged committee members to lead the debate using respectful language around surrogacy.

“Inflammatory language, and using undefined terms don’t benefit the debate,” she added.

Senator Lynn Ruane accused Ms Keogan of “outright opposing” the topic because of her “personal bigotry”, which Ms Keogan rejected.

“I think you should check your Christian values.

“You are crude and you are cold and it is not OK,” Ms Ruane added.

The chair of the committee, Sinn Féin’s Kathleen Funchion, was forced to suspend the meeting after Ms Keogan attempted to raise comments made during a previous private session regarding one of the witnesses.

After the session resumed, Ms Keogan was asked to leave the meeting under Standing Order 113, which allows for a chairperson to order a member to leave a meeting due to disorderly conduct.

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