A survey has found the majority of Irish adults (81 per cent) are in favour of the inclusion of international surrogacy in the Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) Bill.
It comes ahead of the final meeting of the Joint Committee on International Surrogacy.
The survey conducted by research agency iReach Insights questioned a nationally representative sample of Irish adults during the month of May this year. The results reveal a majority, 81 per cent, support the inclusion of international surrogacy in the AHR bill.
This jumps to 87 per cent support amongst all females and again to 87 per cent amongst adults aged 25–34 years old.
Over two thirds (68 per cent) of adults feel strongly about the inclusion of international surrogacy in the AHR bill.
The majority (80 per cent) of adults think all Irish children should have the right to a legal relationship to the person that is genetically their mother or father.
Currently, Irish legislation only recognises the male who is genetically linked to the child and the female who gives birth to the child. A woman who is genetically the mother of the child but did not give birth has no legal rights under current Irish law.
The results mirror those of the 2013 Constitutional Convention which resulted in a vote of 81 to 12 in favour of changing Irish law to incorporate the rights to parentage, guardianship, and upbringing of children.
The convention was tasked with debating the rights to parental relationships in the context of LGBTQ+ relationships.
Over one in 10 Irish adults (13 per cent) have had or know someone who has had a child via surrogacy. This increases to 16 per cent amongst males and 31 per cent of adults aged 18-24.
The majority (85 per cent) of all adults would support an AHR bill that would include provision for the regulation of IVF and the establishment of domestic surrogacy in Ireland, highest amongst females at 91 per cent.
Chairperson of the Assisted Human Reproduction Coalition, Elaine Cohalan, said: “Over the past number of weeks the Special Joint Oireachtas Committee on International Surrogacy has heard first-hand accounts from Irish parents of the struggles faced without legislation, opinions from legal and medical experts on the area of international surrogacy as well as from the Government’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, Professor Conor O’Mahony, all of whom supported the inclusion of international surrogacy in the AHR bill. It is our hope that the clear view from the experts, parents and public opinion is listened to by the Government and the AHR bill is amended to include international surrogacy.”
Comments from Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly in the Seanad recently were criticised by surrogacy advocates who called them "shocking" and "upsetting".
Despite the fact the AHR bill has been in the works since 2017, Mr Donnelly suggested the surrogacy committee was delaying it.
He also suggested a separate Bill would be needed for international surrogacy.
Sara Byrne, of Irish Families Through Surrogacy, told BreakingNews.ie that these comments had caused huge distress to families who have had children through surrogacy.
"You name it, obviously disappointment, anger, shock to be honest that so much work has gone into getting to this point. The committee progressing so well, everyone was so shocked that Mr Donnelly made those comments.
"At this stage we've all been given so much hope that finally our children will be recognised as equal citizens here, and will have equal legal rights for both their parents. The thought of that hope being taken away is hugely upsetting. It's been a difficult few days."
She pointed out that Micheál Martin commissioned research into surrogacy as far back as 2001, when he was Minister for Health.
Ms Byrne added that the AHR Bill was first issued in 2017, and that Mr Donnelly's claims that the surrogacy committee was delaying it were "completely disingenuous".
She commended the work of the Senators and TDs on the committee, "we've been so heartened by how committed they've been to getting the work done in the timeframe".
"Then for Minister Donnelly to turn around and basically say it's holding up the whole show is just completely disingenuous, it's not based on fact at all, and it's just a shock as to where it's come from, it seems he's misinformed or confused at where he's coming from."