Research launched into Irish parents’ experiences of surrogacy, adoption and donor conception

Currently there is no specific legislation in Ireland governing assisted human reproduction, this research wants to help inform the drafting of legislation to address that gap.

An illustration of different types of families
Image: freepik

A new research project, led by Dr Ciara Bradley at Maynooth University, aims to shed light on the use of donor-conception, surrogacy and adoption amongst the Irish population to inform advocacy around the upcoming Assisted Human Reproduction Bill. 

A growing number of families in Ireland are impacted by a lack of legal recognition of the relationship between parents and their children, yet there has been little research into the social, legal and personal issues that arise from this. In Ireland, gay dads who conceive through surrogacy, LGBTQ+ couples who conceive through home insemination or who conceive abroad, and children born abroad to same-sex parents do not have both parents legally recognised. 

“The aim of this research is to explore the range of experiences of families formed via non-traditional pathways to parenthood in Ireland or of Irish parentage abroad. This includes surrogacy, adoption and donor conception. It also includes different family make ups such as opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples and individual parents who may or may not be legally recognised as parents to their children,” said Dr Bradley.

In March, two women became the first same-sex parents in Ireland to both be recognised as parents on their children’s birth certs from birth. This occurred under Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 which commenced in May 2020.

However, many LGBTQ+ families do not have two legally recognised parents as this new legislation still does not cover them. A report by Prof Conor O’Mahony, Special Rapporteur on Child Protection published last month, provided clear and practical legal solutions which uphold the rights and best interests of children including their right to family life and non-discrimination.

The report also recognised the unequal position of many children in LGBTQ+ Families, who are still unable to establish a legal parental relationship to both of their parents. 

It was announced on Monday that the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill would be a priority for the government’s summer legislative programme.

Former Head of Women’s Studies at UCD and long-time LGBTQ+ activist, Dr Ailbhe Smyth welcomed the announcement of the research. “The number of families using fertility services has been increasing steadily for some time here in Ireland yet very little is known about the personal, social and legal challenges faced by prospective parents in doing so.

“This much needed study will undoubtedly bring greater understanding of this complex issue, help shape public debate and provide a strong evidence base for advocacy in relation to the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill.”

The researchers are looking for participants who are Irish residents or Irish citizens living abroad who have children, have tried to have children or are intending to have children using donor-conception, surrogacy, or adoption (in Ireland or abroad) to fill out an anonymous survey which can be found here.

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