Exploring Surrogacy for Irish Citizens

Written by: Sam Everingham

Understanding the complexities and hopes involved in choosing surrogacy, especially in diverse regulatory landscapes, is crucial. As someone deeply familiar with the journey of intended parents, I recognize the importance of providing clarity and guidance in navigating this path. In this blog, we delve into the current landscape of surrogacy in Ireland, considering its legal, ethical, and societal implications, and explore potential future paths for surrogacy arrangements in the country. 

Current State of Surrogacy in Ireland 

Surrogacy in Ireland operates within a unique legal context. Ireland lacks specific legislation on surrogacy, resulting in existing laws recognizing only the biological father as a legal parent. This legal ambiguity complicates the process for intended parents who face uncertainties about their rights. 

The absence of legislation also means Irish IVF clinics are reluctant to facilitate local surrogacy arrangements. Consequently, many Irish intended parents opt for offshore surrogacy options. A decade ago, this was in countries like India, the United States, and Thailand. More recently countries such as Canada, Ukraine, Georgia and North Cyprus have been popular. 

Options Available for Irish Citizens 

Irish citizens exploring surrogacy have both local and international avenues to consider. Domestically, despite the current lack of access to legal parenthood, some navigate surrogacy with close friends or family members (By late 2024, it is hoped Ireland will have passed legislation to allow legal parentage). For international destinations, even if there is local law providing access to surrogacy, once back in Ireland, only the biological father can be recognised as the parent. Once again, Ireland’s upcoming surrogacy laws should allow retrospective recognition for many and future recognition for those engaging in altruistic offshore arrangements. 

Exploring International Surrogacy Destinations 

When exploring international surrogacy destinations, it’s crucial to understand what makes each country attractive to intended parents. Some Irish citizens continue to engage in risky Ukraine programs. Others have taken advantage of emerging programs in South America. Here, we delve deeper into the top countries currently chosen by Irish citizens for surrogacy: 

Georgia  

Key Considerations: In the wake of the Ukraine war, Georgia has become increasingly popular among Irish citizens seeking surrogacy due to its well-established legal framework and comparatively lower costs. The country allows only heterosexual couples to pursue surrogacy arrangements, offering clear legal pathways to parenthood.  

Challenges: Despite its regulatory clarity, cultural and logistical differences can present challenges for Irish intended parents. A small population and conservative values means there are not enough Georgian surrogates to meet demand. So instead, most agencies also bring in foreign surrogates from neighbouring countries such as Kazakhstan. While legally this is workable, there are ethical risks as well as practical risks in regard to where the birth takes place and complications that may arise. Costs for Georgian surrogacy have increased in recent years, due to the high demand. 

Advantages: Georgia offers good quality medical care and legal protections. Surrogacy arrangements in Georgia are supported by modern reproductive clinics and experienced professionals, providing reassurance to intended parents throughout the process.  

North Cyprus 

Key Considerations: North Cyprus has become increasingly popular among single and partnered Irish gay males seeking surrogacy, given its proximity. However North Cyprus is a predominantly Muslim country, whose people do not condone surrogacy, hence there are no supportive laws and the practice is conducted covertly, utilising surrogates from other European countries. 

Challenges: All agencies rely on foreign surrogates from neighbouring countries such as Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan. As a result, surrogates do not speak the local language and may be separately for over a year from their own families. There are ethical as well as practical risks and complications may arise. Costs have increased in recent years, due to high demand. The intended father appears on the North Cyprus birth certificate with the surrogate. 

Advantages: There is a large range of (anonymous) egg donors available. The country is easily accessible from Ireland and acquiring an emergency travel document post birth may require only 4 weeks for Irish nationals. 

United States 

Key Considerations: Less commonly used by Irish nationals due to the higher costs, the United States is renowned for its well-established legal frameworks that support surrogacy arrangements. Parental rights are typically clearly defined and upheld through comprehensive legal contracts, offering a high degree of certainty for intended parents. The country also boasts advanced medical facilities and a supportive infrastructure for reproductive services. 

Challenges: Costs in the United States can be significantly higher compared to other countries, primarily due to medical expenses, legal fees, and compensation for the surrogate. Each state has its own laws regarding surrogacy, which can vary widely and require careful navigation. 

Advantages: The legal predictability and high medical standards in the United States make it a preferred choice for those seeking a reliable and secure surrogacy journey. The availability of experienced agencies and clinics further enhances the overall experience for intended parents.  

Canada 

Key Considerations: Canada offers a welcoming environment for surrogacy with clear legal regulations that prioritize the rights of intended parents. Surrogacy is altruistic, meaning surrogates can only be compensated for reasonable expenses, which will appeal to those wanting to take advantage of Irelands’ upcoming laws supporting recognition of parentage in the case of altruistic offshore arrangements (although pre-approval will be required). The country also provides comprehensive healthcare coverage.  

Challenges: Despite its legal clarity and altruistic , the availability of surrogates is limited compared to countries which allow proper compensation like the United States. So the process will usually involve much longer wait times for surrogate matching and higher levels of surrogate drop-pout.  

Advantages: Canadian surrogacy laws offer stability and security for intended parents, ensuring a straightforward legal process with minimal risk of legal challenges. The country’s commitment to ethical surrogacy practices and accessible healthcare contributes to its appeal among Irish citizens seeking a supportive and regulated environment.  

Ethical Considerations and Cross-Border Surrogacy Standards 

Ethical considerations are paramount in surrogacy decisions, with each country posing its own challenges regarding consent, exploitation, and surrogate well-being. It’s essential for intended parents to thoroughly research and consider these factors when choosing a surrogacy destination. 

To address the complexities and risks of cross-border surrogacy arrangements, Growing Families established an International Advisory Board in February 2023. This board has developed guidelines aimed at protecting the interests of vulnerable surrogates, intended parents, donors, and babies born from these arrangements. These standards focus on mitigating risks and improving safety, well-being, and care throughout the surrogacy journey. 

Learn more about our cross-border surrogacy standards here

Conclusion 

As the global landscape of surrogacy evolves, Irish citizens face opportunities domestically but increasing challenges abroad in their journey to parenthood. During the transitional period while local legislation is being rolled out, it is even more important to ensure informed decision-making and professional guidance. Future reforms in Ireland could provide much-needed clarity and security for surrogacy arrangements, offering hope for a supportive path to parenthood. 

This article was written by:

Sam Everingham

Sam Everingham is the founder of Growing Families. He has extensive global networks with surrogacy researchers, families, agencies, and reproductive specialists, and has been helping couples and singles with their family building journey for over a decade. He is a regular media commentator and has co-authored articles on surrogacy in several reputable journals.

Read more about Sam Everingham

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