The landmark legislation will recognize parents of babies born through a surrogate mother

“These children are Irish and these parents are the parents of these children and that is now fully recognized legally,” said Stephen Donnelly.

When the health minister spoke at a press conference yesterday, some of the parents gathered around him sobbed.

The Irish government yesterday made the landmark decision to regulate and recognize international surrogacy for the first time.

Activists said the announcement was a Christmas miracle, and Irish Families through Surrogacy’s Cathy Wheatley described how she can hear her children calling her “Mammy” without feeling a pang in her heart.

Until now, same-sex couples and people with infertility who choose to go abroad to conceive a child through a surrogate have faced serious and potentially devastating legal uncertainty.

The state didn’t recognize international surrogacy – meaning the so-called “second parent” had no legal relationship with their own child. Women were disproportionately affected.

Now the state will take on the difficult task of regulating what happens outside its borders to protect children, surrogate mothers and parents-to-be.

Amendments to a forthcoming Assisted Human Reproduction Bill will introduce a new procedure that would allow those who have a child through a surrogate mother from another country to be legally recognized as the child’s parents in Ireland as long as the intended parents meet certain conditions.

International surrogacy is controversial. There are legitimate concerns about a process whereby rich families from western countries go to poorer countries and women can pay life-changing amounts of money to carry a baby for them.

Critics point out that the number of countries where commercial surrogacy is legal is small, and with good reason.

But under their proposals, the Irish government would not recognize commercial surrogacy. New guidelines would state that altruistic surrogates receive reasonable expenses — for healthcare costs or to compensate for time off work.

Proponents of regulation have said that it wouldn’t be right if everyone else in the process – the surrogacy agency, the lawyer, say – were compensated for their time while the woman carrying the child is not.

Mr Donnelly said a government agency would have a list of approved countries and agencies from which international surrogacy would be recognized.

In eligible countries, surrogacy arrangements would be accepted by all agencies.

But there are examples of nations where there are good and bad actors – which is why individual agencies in non-approved countries can also make the running.

Before the war, Ukraine was a popular country for international surrogacy. And while there are good and reputable Ukrainian agencies, there are others that have been criticized for unethical practices.

The ethos of the government’s plans is to try to reduce – if not eliminate – the number of Irish people who use unethical agencies that do not respect surrogate mothers’ rights.

One of the most important aspects of the government’s plans to regulate surrogacy is that it will be retroactive. This means that many so-called “second parents” of children already born through surrogacy can consent to their child’s vaccination for the first time, be present during their children’s operations in the hospital and board a plane with them without fear of interrogation.

This is true of many women, who have often been the only mother who has ever known their child, but who might remain a legal stranger to them on paper.

Mr Donnelly said yesterday that the state is “fixing” that uncertainty and “fixing it permanently”.

This legal uncertainty has caused young parents to have thoughts and conversations that no young family should have, about what might happen to them or their relationship with their children if a parent dies or their marriage breaks up.

And there is evidence that the legal uncertainty created by the lack of regulation against mothers of children born through surrogacy has been exploited after relationships have failed.

Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery Kearney, who has a daughter born by surrogacy, told the Seanad this year that she was familiar with a case where a woman who was in the process of a divorce was pressured to giving up their family home or anything else being denied access to their children.
At yesterday’s press conference, she said: “Mine is seven” as far as her daughter is concerned.

“Hopefully the law in Ireland will recognize me as her mother by the time she is ninth,” she said with some emotion, surrounded by other parents who had also been campaigning for legal recognition of their relationship with their children. “That’s incredible.” The landmark legislation will recognize parents of babies born through a surrogate mother

Fry Electronics Team

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