Planned Law Will Allow Surrogacy and Eugenic Screening
A government bill to provide a legal basis for assisted human reproduction procedures will largely follow the UK model and give Ireland one of the most liberal regimes in the EU. It will permit the creation of babies using frozen sperm, eggs, and embryos, even if one of the parents has died. It will also allow parents to choose the sex of their baby in some cases.
The Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan briefed the Oireachtas Health Committee on the process of drafting the forthcoming Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) Bill on Wednesday.
The general scheme for the Bill will permit surrogacy other than on a commercial basis and will require surrogacy agreements to be authorised in advance by an AHR regulatory authority.
Part of the scheme deals with posthumous assisted reproduction (PAR), which involves the use of frozen gametes or embryos from a deceased person to achieve a pregnancy.
“These provisions enable a surviving female partner to continue a parental project after the death of her partner, provided specific conditions are fulfilled,” Dr Holohan said. The deceased person would be recognised as a parent of any child born following PAR provided that child is born within 36 months of the person’s death.
At the Oireachtas committee, Dr Holohan said the rate of AHR procedures conducted in Irish fertility clinics was increasing, rising from 7,589 treatment “cycles” in 2009 to almost 9,000 in 2016.
Dr Holohan warned that surrogacy could create potential risks of coercion and exploitation of financially vulnerable women. There is currently no specific law in the Republic in the area and assisted reproduction clinics remain largely unregulated.
The Bill would allow “surplus” embryos to be used for research, but would prohibit embryo creation specifically for research, as well as practices that may be associated with stem cell research such as reproductive cloning. There will be age restrictions for donors as well as limitations on permitted storage durations.
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, which screens out embryos with certain diseases will be allowed, and the proposed regulatory authority will create a list of genetic diseases for which this eugenic screening is permitted. This will also mean that, in some cases, parents will be allowed to choose the sex of their baby, “where there is a significant risk of a child being born with a serious genetic disease,” Dr Holohan said.
Last October, Minister for Health Simon Harris said he would create supports to help subsidise the cost of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), another aspect of the draft law currently under preparation. Dr Holohan confirmed that these subsidies would also be available to single persons and same-sex couples.
The Irish Times. January 18. Irish Independent. January 18. Family & Life. January 18.