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On the 12th May Niall, the Ombudsman for Children, was invited to a Joint Oireachtas committee meeting on International Surrogacy.
Brace yourselves for a bit of background. There is this Bill called the Health (Assisted Human Reproduction) Bill 2022. Basically, it is going through the motions of becoming law (see here for an explainer of how this happens – it can be super slow, but it’s good to know how it is done). It is also important to know that not all Bills become laws. As of May 20 th 2022, this one is at stage 3 which means it is before the Dail.
The Health (Assisted Human Reproduction) Bill 2022 is being created to better control and make laws for people who have children through assisted human reproduction. Advances in reproductive technologies (e.g. IVF, embryo screening and surrogacy) have given people lots of different ways of having children and families and the government wants to make sure this area is properly controlled so, for instance, nobody takes advantage of anyone else.
The legislation included in this Bill is only for assisted reproduction in Ireland. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says the new legislation is focused on practises “in this jurisdiction exclusively, and therefore it does not contain provisions in respect of international surrogacy”.
What’s the issue?
Lots of people go to other countries to find a surrogate. What about children born through surrogates in other countries and who are brought to Ireland? Where do they fit into the legislation? How are their rights promoted and protected once they are in Ireland?
A joint committee on international surrogacy was set up to look at the issue and come up with recommendations.
… And the role of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office?
Dr. Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman and his colleagues from the policy team in the Ombudsman for Children’s Office appeared before the Joint Committee to give some recommendations to make sure that children's rights are protected in this Bill.
As well as being worried that the Bill doesn’t include children born through surrogacy internationally, the Ombudsman is also concerned about children living in Ireland who have already been born through surrogacy. The Bill talks about children who will be born in the future being protected under this legislation but not children who have already been born through surrogacy. The Ombudsman recommended that these children should be included in the Bill.
Article 3 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child says that:
In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
The Ombudsman also wants to make sure that the Bill has the best interest of the child as the most important consideration.
The final recommendation made by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office was that all children born through surrogacy should be able to access information about their origins and they should be able to access this information at any age and that this information has to be recorded.
The Oireachtas Committee is continuing to hear from different experts and points of view to examine all aspects of the Bill, and will then make recommendations to the Government on any changes they think should be made.