I propose to take Questions Nos. 350 and 445 together.
In October 2017, the Government approved the drafting of a Bill on assisted human reproduction (AHR) and associated areas of research, based on the published General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health is currently conducting a review of the General Scheme as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process, which began in January of last year. The review is in progress and the Joint Committee intends to report thereon before the summer recess. The recommendations in the Committee’s Report will be considered during the ongoing process of drafting this Bill in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General.
The aim of the AHR legislation is to promote and ensure the health and safety of parents, others involved in the process (such as donors and surrogate mothers) and, most importantly, the children who will be born as a result of AHR. Consideration of the welfare and best interests of children born through AHR is a key principle underpinning the Scheme.
The specific provisions relating to surrogacy are outlined in Part 6 of the General Scheme. These provisions outline the specific conditions under which surrogacy in Ireland will be permitted, including a requirement for all surrogacy agreements to be pre-authorised by the AHR Regulatory Authority, the establishment of which the Bill will provide for. The Scheme also sets out a court-based mechanism through which the parentage of a child born through surrogacy may be transferred from the surrogate (and her husband, if applicable) to the intending parent(s).
In addition, under the surrogacy provisions at least one of the intending parents will have to be genetically related to the child. Surrogacy will be permitted on an altruistic basis where the payment of defined and receiptable reasonable expenses will be allowed. However, commercial surrogacy in Ireland will be prohibited as it raises a number of concerns relating to the welfare and commodification of the children involved as well as the potential risks of coercion and exploitation of financially vulnerable women to act as surrogates.
The General Scheme does not regulate Irish citizens being involved in international commercial surrogacy agreements in other countries. However, the Department of Justice and Equality published a guidance document in 2012 on citizenship, parentage, guardianship and travel document issues in relation to children born as a result of surrogacy arrangements entered into outside the State. The purpose of this document is to provide information to prospective intending parents on the steps necessary to ensure that a child born abroad through a surrogacy arrangement may enter and reside in the State and to secure the best interests of the child. This guidance document is available on the website of the Department of Justice and Equality.