Referendum: Minister admits surrogacy issue must be addressed

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has defended her decision not to bring in laws on surrogacy in advance of the marriage equality referendum but admitted the campaign had made clear the need for legislation.

She said she took the surrogacy clause out of the Child and Family Relationships Act shortly before it was signed into law last month because it only addressed limited aspects of surrogacy arrangements.

She said the Government had decided it was better that surrogacy be included in legislation the Department of Health was planning to draft on the much broader question of assisted human reproduction in all its forms.

“There’s a huge amount of work to be done in that area. We definitely need a public consultation. We need to consider all of the areas — who has access, how it’s regulated. Just remember — it’s completely unregulated.

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“The Minister for Health is doing the consultation later this year and then, obviously, legislation will follow so that’s the right place for that discussion.”

Campaigners for a no vote in the referendum put the Government on the defensive in the last fortnight of the campaign by raising the surrogacy question, arguing that marriage equality would effectively allow for surrogacy arrangements by same-sex couples because marriage inferred the right to procreate and it would be impossible to impose legislative restrictions if the constitution was amended.

The Government had insisted the referendum had nothing to do with children but Ms Fitzgerald conceded that surrogacy had become an issue in the debates.

“If anything what the referendum has shown is that this is a very broad area in need of legislation,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald provided little hope that legislation on surrogacy or the broader issue of assisted human reproduction — which covers everything from IVF to egg and sperm donation to surrogacy — would be achieved in the lifetime of the current Government, saying consultation would only begin in the autumn.

“We have a huge legislative programme and clearly my responsibility was to do the Child and Family Relationships Bill and I’ve done that,” she said.

“It’s a question of the Department of Health’s priorities but what we have done that no one else has done is said, ‘let’s begin to look at this area, have the consultation and then move on to legislation’.”

Successive governments have failed to legislate in this area despite recommendations from the Commission on Human Reproduction 10 years ago that laws be drawn up urgently.

Visit our special Referendum 2015 section for all the latest news and analysis

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