The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 represents one of the most significant changes in family law in a generation. It aims to reform family law in a way that is inclusive of, and sensitive to, the reality of contemporary family life in Ireland. It attempts to better reflect this reality by meeting the needs of children living in diverse family types.
Parts 2 & 3 of the Act of 2015 contain provisions relating to the regulation of donor-assisted human reproduction (DAHR) procedures carried out in the State. This covers situations where the child born as a result of that procedure is born in the State and where the intending mother carries the pregnancy and gives birth to the child. The Child and Family Relationship Act 2015 will commence on the 4th May 2020. Regulations made under the Act will commence on the 5th of May 2020.
The commencement of Parts 2 and 3 will clarify the legal position of all parties involved in a Donor Assisted Human Reproduction procedure carried out in accordance with the Act. In particular, this will clarify the legal position and legal parentage of children born from such procedures. These provisions apply to opposite sex couples, female same-sex couples and single women undergoing a Donor Assisted Human Reproduction procedure.
The Regulations will also help to protect the rights of such donor-conceived children to information on their genetic heritage. This will be through prohibition of anonymous gamete donation and by establishing a National Donor-Conceived Person Register. The National Donor-Conceived Person Register will hold the details of the relevant donor, the intending parent(s) and the child or children born from a Donor Assisted Human Reproduction procedure in Ireland. On reaching 18 a donor-conceived child will be able to get the details of their donor(s) from the Register.
Gametes and Embryos Used in Donor Assisted Reproduction
On May 4th 2020, the use of donor gametes (sperm or egg) and donor embryos will need to comply with the provisions of Parts 2 & 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (the Act). The Act contains provisions relating to Donor Assisted Human Reproduction (DAHR) procedures that take place in a clinical setting in the State. It applies to procedures where the woman who gives birth is also the intending mother and the child is born in the State.
Therefore surrogacy is not covered under this legislation. Upcoming draft legislation called the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill contains provisions for areas including domestic surrogacy and the subsequent assignment of parentage.
The commencement of these new Regulations is an important milestone to protect the rights of children conceived through the use of donor embryos or gametes. It will ensure that they will be able to access information on their genetic heritage in future years.
The questions and answers below detail the provisions regarding gametes and embryos. They outline how they may impact people who have gametes or embryos currently stored in fertility clinics in the Republic of Ireland.
What are the provisions in the Act and what do they mean to me?
The Act of 2015 has a number of regulations which relate to the use of donor gametes, embryos, and the families formed using donors in assisted human reproduction. Broadly speaking there are three types of regulations:
There are regulations for donors where the donor makes a declaration and signs that they have no parental rights to offspring born from their donation. They consent to the use of their donation in a Donor Assisted Human Reproduction procedure. The donor will also have to consent to their information being held on a National Donor-Conceived Person Register.
There are regulations for the birth mother and the other intending parent to make a declaration that they have been informed of their rights and their children’s rights under this legislation. They sign of their intention to be a parent of offspring born as a result of a Donor Assisted Human Reproduction procedure. Intending parents will also have to consent to their information being held on the Donor Conceived-Person Register.
There is a regulation which relates to the certification of a Donor Assisted Human Reproduction procedure which allows both intending parents to be named on the birth certificate of a child born as a result of that procedure.
I have purchased either anonymously donated sperm or egg and it is in storage in an Irish fertility clinic, will I still be able to use it after May 4th 2020?
The majority of anonymously donated sperm or eggs will not be eligible to be used in a Donor Assisted Human Reproduction procedure in an Irish fertility clinic from May 4th 2020.
However, where a family wishes to create a sibling for their existing child(ren) using the same donor there is a transitional provision of three years. In these cases, the transitional period which allows for the use of anonymously donated sperm or eggs is until the 4th of May 2023.
The details of the parent(s) will be registered on the Irish National Donor-Conceived Person Register.
I have purchased non-anonymously donated sperm or egg and it is in storage in an Irish fertility clinic, will I still be able to use it after May 4th 2020?
You will only be able to use non-anonymously donated sperm or egg currently in storage in an Irish fertility clinic if the donor now signs a consent form to allow the collection and storage of their details on the Irish National Donor-Conceived Person Register.
Without this further Irish consent you will not be able to use non-anonymously donated sperm or eggs from 4th May 2020.
If you have any concerns about whether the gamete(s) you have purchased are compliant with the new Regulations and may be used after 4th May 2020, it is important that you contact the clinic where your gametes are stored as soon as possible.
The fertility clinics in Ireland hold the relevant consent regulations and all relevant forms and can advise their clients further in this regard.
I have embryos in storage in an Irish fertility clinic that were formed with the use of anonymously donated gamete/s. Can I still use the embryo after May 4th, 2020?
Yes, embryos formed using anonymously donated gamete/s prior to May 4th 2020 will still be able to be used in a Donor Assisted Human Reproduction procedure in an Irish fertility clinic following commencement of the Act. The details of the parents and any known donor information (in the case where an embryo is formed from one anonymous gamete and one non-anonymous donor gamete) will be registered on the Irish National Donor-Conceived Person Register.
I wish to do Intrauterine insemination (IUI) at home using non-anonymously donated sperm, after the 4th May 2020 will my partner still be able to consent to parentage under the Act of 2015 and will we be able to have both our names on the birth certificate?
No, the regulations made under the Act of 2015 only cover Donor Assisted Human Reproduction procedures which have taken place in a clinical setting in the Republic of Ireland.
Someone I know has agreed to donate their sperm/egg to me after the 4th May 2020, what do I need to do next?
You should first of all contact an Irish fertility clinic as they can ensure all the relevant consents are signed and can undertake the procedures for donor assisted reproduction.