Family has fresh hopes for surrogacy law change

A BALLYBOFEY mother whose daughter was born through altruistic domestic surrogacy has said she is “optimistic the government will do the right thing” by introducing surrogacy legislation.
Marie McPhilemy and her husband John have an eight-year-old daughter, Lucy, who is the light of their lives. But, in the eyes of the law, Marie is not legally Lucy’s mother as it was her sister, Sharon, who gave birth to her through altruistic domestic surrogacy.
Having discovered at the age of 16 that she could not carry a baby and that there was no law whatsoever around surrogacy in Ireland, Marie and Mark decided to progress their plans another way. Marie’s eggs were fertilised with her husband’s sperm at an IVF clinic in Prague. Her sister then carried the embryo. Little Lucy was born in Letterkenny University Hospital in October 2013.
Planned legislation to change laws around surrogacy have not yet come to fruition, which has been a source of frustration for Marie and John, and many families like them. The absence of this means Marie is not named as Lucy’s mother on her birth certificate. In the eyes of the law, Marie is Lucy’s guardian, not her mother. There are a number of implications with this, including the signing of consent forms for medical interventions and paperwork, including passport applications or the opening of a bank account for her daughter, which all currently need to be signed off by her husband.
The Bill on assisted Human Production (AHP), which includes surrogacy, is being drafted by Department of Health Officials, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General.
The department has said that the legislation “is a priority”. A definitive timeline for the publication of the Bill and its subsequent passage through the House of the Oireachtas is not yet known.
Marie has spoken of her family’s fresh hopes as the campaign has taken space after  Westlife star Mark Feehily joined the growing number of voices of those calling for the introduction of surrogacy legislation in Ireland.
Mr Feehily and his partner Cailean O’Neill had their daughter, Layla, via a surrogate in the United States two years ago.
He said: “It’s all about parents taking care and minding their children and in order to do that 100 per cent we have to be legally covered, you know, and that’s what this is about. It’s quite a simple thing really.”
Speaking to the Donegal News, Marie said: “It’s lovely to see such an important issue being brought to the forefront by someone in the public eye. The government are there to make rules, regulations and to legislate, and children are such an important part of our society.
300 families
“There are 300 families in Ireland who have children through surrogacy, so the number of children we have in this country born through surrogacy is a very great amount when you consider twin or triplet births.”
Marie and John have been supported by surrogacy advocates Irish Families Through Surrogacy. The non-profit association is campaigning for children to have a legally recognised relationship with both parents. They are concerned that the Bill in its current format does not address international surrogacy or retrospectively recognise the rights of children who have already been born through surrogacy.
“We are optimistic the government will do the right thing,” said Marie, who told of a proud moment recently when she heard her daughter explain to her friend how she was born through surrogacy.
“It’s a part of our everyday life and we give thanks to my sister every night that we were able to have Lucy through surrogacy. It was lovely to see and hear her talking about it with her friend. She summed it up so perfectly.”

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