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'Surrogacy ban would not be fair' - mum of twins born in Ukraine

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Cathy and Keith Wheatley with their babies Ted and Elsie

Cathy and Keith Wheatley with their babies Ted and Elsie

Cathy and Keith Wheatley with their babies Ted and Elsie

A mother who allowed a TV documentary crew to film her journey to have twin babies through surrogacy has spoken of her distress at a call to have the practice outlawed here.

The birth of twins Ted and Elsie six months ago in Ukraine was the culmination of a painful near decade-long path for Cathy and Keith Wheatley.

Watching TV reports in recent days of parents unable to get to their babies born through surrogacy in Ukraine due to coronavirus restrictions, the Wicklow-based mother said she knows the parents will be doing everything in their power to get to their children.

"My heart goes out to them. I know that no matter what the parents have to do to get there, they will get there. That's their baby. If they have to crawl, they will crawl there," she said.

The Wheatleys agreed to appear on Virgin Media's You, Me And Surrogacy last year to shine a light on the lifeline for parents who have reached the end of the road with fertility treatments.

They lost baby daughter Helen to stillbirth nearly six years ago when Ms Wheatley was seven months pregnant, and endured gruelling years of IVF disappointment.

"Baby Helen died, she was our little miracle baby and she died when my uterus ruptured. It was a one in a million chance my uterus would rupture," said Ms Wheatley.

"Nobody, absolutely nobody, starts to do surrogacy until it is absolutely the last option for them and we were told that it was the final option for us.

"And Ukraine was the place we could afford to do it and that's the reality of it.

Protection

"I had friends, people who had lost babies as well, and they wanted to carry a baby for me because they knew how much it meant to us to have a family.

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Professor Patricia Casey called for a ban on surrogacy

Professor Patricia Casey called for a ban on surrogacy

Professor Patricia Casey called for a ban on surrogacy

"But we couldn't do that because under Irish law we would have no protection for either party."

Over the past six months she has been overjoyed to finally become a mother. However, she was dismayed this week when Patricia Casey, consultant psychiatrist at the Mater Hospital, called for a ban on surrogacy.

She argued that surrogacy is exploitation and that many regard surrogacy as "a rent-a-womb business, accessible only to the rich".

Ms Wheatley said one of the reasons she allowed the cameras to film her very personal journey was to dispel this notion.

"We had to re-mortgage our house to do surrogacy, all our savings went on IVF and all of those things and we literally didn't have a penny. We went to the ends of the earth to get the money for surrogacy because it was our only way," she said.

She stresses that she formed a friendship for life with her gestational surrogate, Ivana, who had no biological link to their baby twins, and has two children of her own.

"Ivana is an amazing woman, and there is no denying that by being a surrogate she does get to help her family and she does get financially paid for it," she said.

"It's not a life-changing amount of money and it's not the only reason. With Ivana, she comes from a big family, and she had two children and she heard our story and decided she wanted to carry a baby for us because of how we were affected by infertility and the death of baby Helen."

Cathy is campaigning to have surrogacy recognised under Irish law and will be at Ireland's first surrogacy webinar this Saturday on nisig.com, hosted by the National Infertility Support and Information Group (NISG).

"The way that I see us is we are just ordinary people who had to go on an extraordinary road to have our family," she said.