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No couple should have to endure a surrogacy battle

UNTIL someone has experienced the unbearable hurt and despair of years of infertility, it's impossible to understand the lengths to which they're prepared to go to have a baby. It's human instinct on speed.

COSTLY medications, adoption, IVF, even surrogacy. They'll mortgage their house for it; put up with hospitalisation; become a slave to monthly cycles, ovulation kits and blood tests.

But in the absence of any laws or regulations on either IVF or surrogacy, couples will happily go under the wire.

That makes yesterday's High Court ruling all the more welcome. A couple, who are the genetic parents of twins, have been granted the legal right to be recognised as such after the woman's sister acted as surrogate, after a long battle.

Our archaic Constitution had interpreted that the woman who gave birth was always the mother. It was, clearly, written before science galloped along, and therefore, fundamental new laws are needed.

A previous government were, at one point, ahead of the game. They commissioned a comprehensive and excellent report on Assisted Human Reproduction which was presented – in 2005.

Thereafter it was shelved by successive governments because nobody wanted to touch it.

Legislation

The decision in this surrogacy case, and in a second case yesterday which granted a passport to a two-year-old of Irish parents born to an Indian surrogate, shows we need regulation and proper laws.

Otherwise you have an ad hoc approach, with people going abroad and making their own arrangements.

Ireland seems willing to accept that surrogacy and IVF happens, but doesn't want to validate it by legislation. Sound familiar? Well, when it comes to the female human body it seems we can't make decisions about how it should be treated legally. We have a Constitution obsessed with women. Her womb, her rights, her values, her place in the home.

The Catholic Church is opposed to all of this, of course. That's not helpful, naturally, but poking croziers into people's bedrooms is something they've never shied away from.

They are worried about potentially three mothers in any surrogacy scenario: the surrogate mother, the commissioning mother and the donor (egg) mother. And, to a point, they are correct. What they want is to ban it – what most other people seem to want is some guidance on how to put it altogether.

We need laws so that, for instance, surrogacy doesn't become a commercial enterprise, or one carried out under duress, or abroad where there might be even fewer laws than we have here.

Many couples are of an age where other options have failed them and surrogacy is their only solution.

However, time, tide and children wait for no man. There are currently 35 notified births by surrogates in Ireland. There are suspected to be many more who have not been identified to the authorities.

Many of these are children without a passport or citizenship. It costs upward of €20,000 for a couple to engage a foreign surrogate in India, so it's hardly a decision taken lightly.

It's all very well to say "Down with this sort of thing", but in the meantime, women who want babies, will have babies, by whatever means they need. If the legislators want to catch up, that's fine, but they really should get a move on.

The Family Relationships and Children's Bill is due later this year and will attempt to tackle some of these issues.

Not a moment too soon for some of our tiniest citizens residing in no-man's land.


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