Senator Rónán Mullen

Full steam ahead on the denial of motherhood – Senator Mullen demands pause on Government’s surrogacy legislation

– Government ignores “the lessons of the Family and Care referendum”

Senator Rónán Mullen has condemned the Government’s Health (Assisted Human Reproduction) Bill during its Second Stage debate in the Seanad today and has called “at a minimum” for a pause on the far-reaching provisions on surrogacy added to the Bill in recent months.

“There has been very little public discussion of this Bill, it has passed the Dáil without, to my knowledge, a single vote being called, and the national media have failed to shine a light on the controversial, and potentially bizarre, nature of some of its provisions,” Senator Mullen says.


“Remarkably, the Government has ignored the clear signal from the electorate in recent referendum that motherhood should not be undermined or sidelined in law, are now having a second go at doing just that. It is going full steam ahead on the denial of motherhood, ignoring the lessons of the Family and Care referendums.”


“Under existing legislation*, the woman who gives birth is considered the mother of a child, even though ‘mother’ is not defined in the Constitution. If this Bill is passed won’t the presumed meaning of ‘mother’, namely that she is a woman, be undermined in Irish law? In the Seanad, Senator Mullen raised the situation of a biological male who has availed of the Gender Recognition Act 2015 to have a ‘preferred gender’ of female. “Won’t the Bill enable such a person to be an ‘intending parent’ and, by the use of a donor egg and surrogate mother, to be registered as the ‘mother’ of the child born through surrogacy. Doesn’t this mock the clearly expressed view of the people in our recent referendum about the importance of motherhood?”


“The lack of critical scrutiny of this Bill should alarm people as to what else it might contain. At a time when there are many seeking to outlaw surrogacy across Europe, this Government seems determined to enable domestic and international surrogacy instead, pushed along by self-interested NGOs. This Bill will create a precedent for international surrogacy law across Europe, advancing the facilitation of modern slavery where financially vulnerable women are induced to carry children for nine months and then give them up, in exchange for ‘reasonable expenses’ that, to judge by international experience, can run into tens of thousands of euro. This is the exploitation of the poor and the commodification, the buying and selling of, children. Our responsibilities under the UN Rights of the Child are being ignored in deference to the rights of financially-advantaged individuals or couples.”


“This Bill comes at a time when we should be seeking to outlaw the practice of surrogacy worldwide. Up to now, the Bill has gone under the radar, with soft-focused human interest stories driving the agenda, while the rights of unseen victims of international surrogacy are ignored.”


“Whatever about properly monitoring domestic surrogacy to ensure it is altruistic, this is simply not possible with international surrogacy. Of its nature international surrogacy is commercial and conflicts with our duties under the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Slavery Convention of 1926.

Senator Mullen noted that while Minister Donnelly had consulted closely with NGOs he had not consulted the general public on their views.

“The general public were not consulted nor was international surrogacy part of the 2020 Programme for Government.”

“We need now, at a minimum, to pause the international surrogacy aspect of this legislation.” Mullen says. “We need a wide-ranging public discussion on the Bill’s contents now.”


*In MR and DR v An t-Ard Chláraitheoir [2013] IEHC 91; [2014] 3 IR 533 (SC), the Supreme Court found, by a majority, that the Status of Children Act 1987 and the Civil Registration Act 2004 used the word “mother” in the sense of the woman who gave birth to the child. The Supreme Court held that “mother” was not defined in the Constitution.

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