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Call for ‘major reform’ of Children & Family Bill

By Susan Gately - 06 March, 2015

Bill undermines rights of children, despite "government and opposition protestations that the entire Bill is in the ‘best interests’ of children.”

Mothers and Fathers matter 2.As the Children and Family Relationships Bill works its way through the Committee Stage in the Dáil, a family advocacy group has appealed for substantial amendments to the bill.

‘Mother and Fathers Matter’ has several objections to it.

  • It notes the bill allows for birth certificates to record the name of two ‘mothers’ but no father which they say is a “deliberate falsification” of official documentation.
  • It allows for provision of sperm and eggs from family members to other family members. The Institute of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists in Ireland has said this is already happening. This “deliberately confuses family relationships”, says Mother and Fathers Matter, illustrating the point with two examples from the UK.
    One is the case of Mary Portas whose partner is pregnant using sperm from Mary Portas’s brother, meaning the brother will be both the child’s father and uncle. Another recent case involves a woman giving birth on behalf of her son to a child conceived via IVF making her both the child’s grandmother and birth mother.
  • It can deliberately deny a child either a mother or father in cases where single people or same-sex couples use donor eggs or sperm to have a child. “That child by definition will be deliberately deprived of either a mother or a father in his or her life,” says the group.
  • Allowing the use of donor eggs and sperm deliberately severs the “natural ties” in a family, and can also lead to the “commodification of children by facilitating a market in the sale of eggs and sperm.
  • The bill downgrades the status of marriage and removes the preference for married men and women in the adoption laws.” In terms of both Donor Assisted Human Reproduction (DAHR) and adoption, the Bill makes no distinction between married couples, cohabiting couples and same-sex couples in Civil Partnerships thereby showing that the Government no longer sees any advantage in a child having a married mother and father, they say.

Mothers and Fathers Matter believes that the only way to prevent undermining the rights of children inherent in ‘Donor Assisted Human Reproduction’ is to prohibit the practice entirely.

They argue that this will not affect the “vast majority” of people who use IVF in Ireland, because most couples use their own eggs and sperm, so “the natural ties are preserved and the children are raised by a mother and a father.”

“We believe that in its present form the Children and Family Relationships Bill undermines the rights of children despite Government and opposition protestations that the entire Bill is in the ‘best interests’ of children,” said Dr Thomas Finegan.

He said they also believed that the provisions of the bill dealing with adoption “must retain the preference for placing a child with a married mother and father.”

Research shows that married families stay together longer, and break up less, Dr Finegan told CatholicIreland.net.

“Cohabiting couples break up more. On that basis, a child being brought up in a married family has a greater chance of staying connected with his or her father and mother and it is more stable for that child.”

Same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt on the same terms as single people are currently allowed to adopt, namely “in the particular circumstances”, he said.

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