Birth Certificate ‘fictions’ and assisted human reproduction

28/09/2018 07:45:00

In the September Gazette, Mary Hallissey writes about the child law challenges posed by the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.

Change coming

As parts 1 and 2 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 are due to be enacted, the Department of Employment and Social Protection has confirmed that the format of Irish birth certificates will change. The words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are expected to be replaced, as appropriate, with ‘parent one’ and ‘parent two’.

Part 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 will amend the Civil Registration Act of 2004, the legal framework for registration of birth. Under the new law, the registrar of births will hold ‘additional information’ on donor-conceived children, which may be requested when that child reaches 18.

In tandem, the General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill provides for the formation of a National Donor-Conceived Person Register (NDCPR), a move that was first mooted in section 33 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.

A right to know

There has been general welcome for the ban on anonymous gamete donation. In future, donors must give active legal consent. However, there is no legal responsibility, or suggested timescale, for parents to inform children about the truth of their biological origins.

Child law experts point out the critical importance of accuracy in State certificates – and the profound implications of deliberate falsification of legal documents. A birth certificate is the gateway to all other rights as a citizen. Children’s ombudsman Niall Muldoon is adamant that every child born through assisted reproduction should have full, accurate information on “the reality of their lineage and birth … this would necessarily include the identity of any gamete donors or surrogates,” he says.

Mary Hallissey is a journalist with the Gazette. Writing in the September issue, she discusses the issues raised by the coming change with child law experts, including Dr Geoffrey Shannon (solicitor), Susan Lohan (Adoption Rights Alliance), Helen Coughlan (vice-chair of the Law Society’s Family and Child Law Committee), and more.

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