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Seanad AHR bill debate hears ‘profit motive’ warning
Health minister Stephen Donnelly Pic: RollingNews.ie

14 Jun 2024 / legislation Print

AHR bill debate hears ‘profit motive’ warning

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told the Seanad debate on the Health (Assisted Human Reproduction) bill yesterday (13 June) that it must be passed quickly, given the likelihood of a general election in the near future.

Former Special Rapporteur for Children Dr Conor O’Mahony had previously asked legislators to “slow down” given the complexity of the issues involved.

Senator Mary Seery Kearney told the Seanad that it was ten years since she began advocating for a legal framework for surrogacy in Ireland. 

“This bill provides for a very wide range of oversight and provisions regulating assisted human reproduction – in all of its forms – and it is to be welcomed and celebrated,” she said.


The senator added that the capabilities of science shouldn’t be without guidance and oversight, so that the human dignity of all involved was protected and promoted.

Surrogacy for women who want to be mothers was not a first choice, she said.

“In fact, no woman wants to see another woman carry their baby … any woman who desperately wants to have a baby, wants to carry that baby herself,” she said.

'Exploit and coerce'

“I don’t deny that there are those who seek to exploit and coerce women into becoming surrogates, nor do I deny that there are a very small number of desperate intending parents who do not sufficiently interrogate the human rights of the surrogate, and an even smaller number do not uphold the rights of the child to know their origins and biological identity. 

“This bill addresses those concerns comprehensively, cogently, carefully and conservatively,” she said.

It was wrong to characterise all surrogacies with a commercial element as unethical, she continued, or to infer that any birth involving a payment to a surrogate was by default exploitative. 

The policy decision to ban commercial surrogacy, both domestically or internationally, would cause disproportionate hardship to same-sex male couples, she said, and would cause fear and legitimate hurt and anger.

The legislation provided a legal avenue for the recognition of parental relationships through a High Court parental order, the senator said.

Families of surrogate-born have already had gruelling and financially costly experiences in getting parental recognition for the biological fathers of their children, she stated.

The children of same-sex female couples remained excluded from parental recognition of both parents, the senator added.

Legal framework

Senator Michael McDowell said that assisted human reproduction needed a strong legal framework, with issues that must be faced, since childlessness was a huge psychological yearning.

“Surrogacy legislation is necessary, and IVF and assisted human reproduction legislation is necessary, and long overdue,” he said.

Senator Sharon Keogan said that not enough time was being given for debate on a piece of legislation so consequential.

She stated that the exploitation of surrogate mothers was a major concern.

Where a profit motive was involved, opportunities for exploitation would inevitably result where such a power imbalance existed, she added.

Long-term damage

Surrogate mothers gave up all rights in relation to the child they were carrying, and often faced forced abortion, underpayment, and an unsafe and oppressive living environment, with poor health care and long-term physical damage, Senator Keogan stated.

That the mother was not named on birth certificates risked creating legal complications for children later in life, she said.

“We are sleepwalking into a birth and information-tracing crisis,” the senator stated.

Harmful effects

“I implore you to consider amendments to mitigate the harmful effects of this legislation,” she asked health minister Stephen Donnelly.

Senator Gerard Craughwell said that surrogacy agencies were charging commissioning parents up to €65,000 in Ukraine, but birth mothers only received a fraction of that money.

He said that the State could be held liable in future for denying children access to the woman who brought them into the world.

Senator Lynn Ruane told the Seanad that she had worked with male prisoners who were prevented from starting families through incarceration, and who would like to be included in free state-funded IVF.

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