Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill 2018 approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas
Minister Harris envisages the commencement of Parts 2 & 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 in the autumn
The Minister for Health Simon Harris today welcomed the passing of the Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Act 2018, through the Seanad. The Bill will be presented to the President to sign it into law. The specific purpose of this Amendment Bill is to correct a typographical and technical error in the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, which will facilitate the subsequent commencement of Parts 2 & 3 of that Act.
Minister Harris said “I welcome the fact that all stages of this Amendment Bill passed today, and I would like to thank all of the members who have contributed to this debate in the Seanad today and to my colleagues in Dáil Eireann last week.”
The Minister was keen to emphasise that “the passage of this Bill through the Oireachtas does not change any of the substantive provisions or the policy intention of Parts 2 & 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, rather it paves the way for me to give effect to those provisions once those outstanding Parts are commenced”.
The Minister re-iterated his commitment to commence Parts 2 & 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 as soon as possible in the autumn. Minister Harris stated “I am acutely aware of the urgency surrounding the commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act and how eagerly its provisions are awaited”.
The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 was enacted to modernise family law in a way that is inclusive of and sensitive to the reality of contemporary family life in Ireland and to meet the needs of children living in diverse family types. Parts 2 & 3 of the Act, which are the responsibility of the Minister for Health, are key elements of the Act and are concerned with the rights of children conceived through the use of donor embryos or gametes.
The technology of assisted human reproduction has created a new reality and Irish law must adapt to reflect these changes. The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 brings much needed clarity in this area. Further delays to commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act will impact the rights of the most vulnerable individuals in a donor-assisted human reproduction procedure, namely the children.
“I am grateful to my colleagues in both Houses for expediting the progression of this short, technical Bill and engaging in a constructive dialogue in relation to the provisions of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.”
Notes to the Editor
Clarification of parentage of donor-conceived children
The parents of a child born as a result of a donor-assisted human reproduction (DAHR) procedure will be the mother, i.e. the woman who gave birth to the child, and, where applicable, the spouse, civil partner or co-habitant of the mother, subject to consent of both parties. A parent under this section shall have all parental rights and duties in respect of the child. The donor of a gamete or embryo used in the DAHR procedure shall not be a parent of that child and shall have no parental rights or duties in respect of that child.
Removal of donor anonymity
All those donating sperm, eggs (oocytes), or an embryo for use in a DAHR procedure after the date of commencement must consent to the recording of their personal information on the National Donor-Conceived Person Register.
National Donor-Conceived Person Register (NDCPR)
In order to vindicate the rights of donor-conceived children to access information on their genetic heritage Part 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 provides for the establishment of the National Donor-Conceived Person Register. This Register will contain the details of the relevant donor, intending parents and child born as a result of a DAHR procedure in Ireland. Under the Act a donor-conceived child, upon reaching the age of 18, can request from the Minister for Health the name, date of birth and contact details of the relevant donor that are contained in the National Donor-Conceived Person Register.
Retrospective declarations of parentage
Sections 20 to 23 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 contain provisions for the parents of a donor-conceived child to apply to the District or Circuit Court for a declaration of parentage in relation to a child born in Ireland as a result of DAHR procedures performed both in the State and outside the State prior to the commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act, subject to certain conditions.
Assisted Human Reproduction Bill
The Children and Family Relationships Act specifically relates to procedures where the intending mother is also the birth mother. As such this Act does not encompass surrogacy.
Provisions relating to the regulation of surrogacy are included in Part 6 of the General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017.
The Government approved the drafting of a Bill on assisted human reproduction (AHR) and associated areas of research, which will be based on the published General Scheme, in October last year. Officials in the Department of Health are engaging with the Office of the Attorney General in relation to the process of drafting this Bill.
The General Scheme is published on Department of Health’s website and the Joint Committee on Health began a review of the General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017 as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process in January of this year.