The more things change…

The more things change…
An artificial human reproduction law is the Government’s latest attack on children’s rights, writes David Quinn


With almost no public – or indeed political – scrutiny, a law intended to regulate the practice of Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) is currently before the Oireachtas. It is being considered at the moment by the Health Committee.

Among the AHR practices to be regulated are IVF, donation of sperm and eggs, surrogacy, plus the creation and use of human embryos.

The proposed AHR Bill is the companion piece to the Children and Family Relationships Act which was hastily passed, with almost no debate, in 2015. It is one of the most unjust pieces of legislation ever passed in this country, a wholesale attack on the rights of children in favour of presumed adult rights to have children in virtually any way they please.

Marriage is given no special standing in this law, nor is there a requirement that a child conceived through AHR have a mother and a father, married or not, or indeed two parents at all. This law is about giving adults what they want. It is the same with the proposed AHR law. ‘Choice’ is the mantra, as in the abortion debate.

The fact that ‘choice’ is the predominant morality in these two pieces of legislation is proven by their use of the term ‘intending parents’.

For all of human history, indeed for all of natural history, the parents of a child are the natural parents, the biological parents. That is still the case, if course, but under this new legal dispensation we no longer think the natural ties between parents and children matter very much.

What matters now is the intention of a person to be a parent. These are called the ‘intending parents’. Let’s consider the following scenario. A couple approach an IVF clinic intending to be parents. The man can provide his own sperm, but the woman is infertile. Therefore, they will have to obtain an egg from another woman, the ‘donor’.

If the clinic succeeds in impregnating the woman, the resultant child will, in fact, have three parents – namely the father, the egg donor and the birth mother.

Only two of these three will be considered by law to be the child’s parents, namely the man and his partner, the birth mother. This is because they intend to be the parents. Hence the term, ‘intentional parents’.

The egg provider in this scenario is not considered to be the child’s parent at all because she did not intend to be its parent. The fact that she is actually the child’s biological mother is regarded as of little importance. Intention is all that counts – ‘choice’, in other words.

The child, in time, might well have a different view, of course. The child might not give a hoot for the intention of her parents or what the law says. She might rightly take the view that nature is what makes you a parent whether you like or not, and therefore the egg provider is her mother every bit as much, if not more, than her birth mother.

I realise this is complicated but bear with me. Let’s try a different scenario. Let’s imagine that the female ‘intending parent’ in the first scenario can neither provide an egg nor bear a child in her womb. In this case, the couple will have to use a surrogate mother as well as an egg donor if they want to have a child. The surrogate is whatever woman is willing to carry the child for them.


Now the resultant baby will have four parents, that is, the two ‘intending parents’, plus the egg provider (the biological mother) plus the birth mother (the surrogate).

The Irish law will discard both the biological mother and the birth mother in this scenario because they will not be the ‘intending parents’. Again, the law will treat the biological connection as having little importance. This is despite all the scandals in this country about how adoption used to be practised. We are disgusted at how the Irish State, often with the help of the Churches, used to make it very hard, if not impossible, for the birth mother and her child to trace each other.

We are disgusted because we know the natural ties matter. Well, if they mattered then, why don’t they matter now? Why do they count for so little in this AHR Bill or in the Children and Family Relationships Act?

In Britain last week, another scenario came to our intention. This one involves British Olympic diver Tom Daley, who is married to Dustin Lance-Black. They announced that they will soon have a baby. How is this possible? They are both men, after all. Well, they are using the egg of one woman and the womb of another. The right of the child to a mother doesn’t come into the picture at all. Once again, it is the ‘rights’ and choices of the adults that matter.

No matter who uses surrogate mothers to have children – whether they be single people, same-sex couples, or opposite-sex couples – the practice of surrogacy is almost inherently exploitative of women. It is almost invariably women from lower income groups who rent out their wombs to people in higher income groups.

The AHR Bill will ban ‘commercial’ surrogacy, which involves big fees. But it will permit ‘reasonable expenses’ which can run into many thousands of euro.

In addition, the ban on commercial surrogacy can be circumvented by going abroad, coming back with the baby and asking the courts to legally recognise the child in the child’s ‘best interests’.

At the present time, there is almost no debate about this Bill, but here is a guarantee; in years to come this will come back to bite us. Why? Because the children produced in the ways permitted by the proposed law will demand to know how Ireland came to treat the natural ties as having so little importance and allowed them to be cut away so easily in the name of adult choice.