Irish Mums via Surrogacy Are Standing Up

As Irish mothers continue the fight for legal recognition, Growing Families returns to Dublin for the first time in two years to host its popular seminar series focusing on the latest developments in surrogacy and egg donation.

With Covid-19 having affected travel and program availability and Irish legislators getting huge pressure to improve Ireland’s legal framework, there is a lot to discuss.

I first provided written feedback on Ireland’s 2017 draft bill to regulate surrogacy arrangements in early 2018 to highlight how it completely overlooked international arrangements. Great slabs of it seemed to have been copy-pasted from out-of-date legislation in the UK and Australia.

Myself, NISIG reps and Irish parents via surrogacy subsequently met with Irish government officials and stakeholders later than year and in 2019. They listened but there was no follow-up. It seemed clear that without further pressure, this Bill might land in the too-hard basket.

One of the key problems was a bill that ignores the use of international surrogacy – hundreds of Irish mothers not recognised as the legal parent of their child.

Too long these families and their newborns have been ignored in public policy decisions. Irish Families Through Surrogacy was founded last year to provide a much-needed voice for such families. The energy of many mums including Ciara Merrigan and Sinead Gallagher-Hedderman has pit pressure on the Irish government to ensure that babies can have the same rights to legal recognition of their parents as other children.

Sinead and her husband made headlines in Ireland in April 2021 when they refused the government’s directive to quarantine for two weeks in a Dublin hotel with their week-old baby. The story took flight, leading Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to enact a new regulation, giving such families an exemption. For the first time international surrogacy had some recognition under Irish law.

Since then the group has driven forward an extra-ordinary media and political push  on the need for the new bill to protect Irish infants born overseas. In June RTE profiled parents Cathy and Keith Wheatley in rural co Wicklow. In July The Farmers Journal ran a similar story and The Journal featured new mum Annie McCarthy. In August, the Fingal Independent profiled Elaine Murphy and her husband Mick, again calling out the issue.

Alongside this, parents have done many radio interviews across Ireland, including on the Claire Byrne show and met with politicians and departmental staff to ensure their message cuts through.

Growing Families October 3 Dublin event will provide further focus on the issue as it brings Ireland’s surrogacy community together to network and learn about latest developments in Ireland and abroad 

On the topic of Ukraine surrogacy, so popular with Irish nationals, the event will look at the pitfalls of social media in deciding on a provider. Past parents incentivised to draw in clients; changes in management and false advertising are just some of the problems that come up. For the first time, the event will host a talk on donor and surrogacy options in Georgia, one of the unsung heroes of affordable IVF and surrogacy programs for heterosexual couples. 

As always, the seminar will introduce hopeful Irish parents-to-be to a range of recent parents via surrogacy providing insights into their own journeys. They will discuss the hurdles, how they overcame them, managing expectations; what to look for in an agency; whether guarantee programs are worth the extra money; starting with your own embryos and the impact on costs.

Not only parents but Irish legal professionals, IVF specialists and advocates will talk about developments in the US, Ukraine, Georgia and Canada.

These seminars cater to safe, regulated family building options for singles, couples whatever their sexuality and budgets. They provide honest insight into the processes, hurdles, success rates, costs, latest developments and ultimate joys.

Growing Families is an information and referral hub for singles and couples hoping to build their family with the help of donor IVF and/or surrogacy.

Sam Everingham