This week, the final parts of the Children and Relationship Act 2015 have come into operation. This legislation has changed profoundly the legal arrangement of family relationships but in a way that downgrades the importance of the natural ties.
Part 2 and 3, which were delayed because of technical mistakes in the original Act, contain provisions relating to the regulation of so called “donor-assisted” human reproduction (DAHR). This is when the gamete (egg or sperm), or the embryo, is provided by someone who is, consequently, the natural parent of the child but will not be recognised as the legal parent of the child. The legal parent will be the ‘intending parent’. Intention will trump biology.
In Irish law, a woman who gives birth is the mother of a child. This new legislation will allow another person, a man or a woman, to be added as parent with the Registrar for Births, Death, and Marriages, when the child has been conceived through donation. What it is called the “intending parent”, who has no genetic link to the child, can be the mother’s spouse, her civil partner or a cohabitant.
The Act has effect on female same-sex couples but not on male couples as they need a surrogate, and surrogacy will be regulated by different upcoming legislation.