Rich Vaughn, IFLG: Slow-Moving Irish ART Law Reform

Slow-Moving Irish ART Law Reform Would Severely Limit Surrogacy

Ireland, the traditionally Catholic country where surrogacy has existed for decades in a legal limbo, with no laws on the books, is slow-walking a badly needed overhaul of its reproductive technology laws. With the Irish legislature, the Oireachtas, at odds over historically divisive issues such as reproduction and parentage, new draft legislation may be quite some time in coming, Irish colleagues report. Even then, the proposed new law will likely allow surrogacy only under severely restricted conditions and would do nothing to help streamline the arduous process of establishing parentage of babies born via surrogacy in other countries.

The Oireachtas’ Joint Committee on Health was assigned to review the 2017 General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, to solicit stakeholder feedback, and to report its recommendations for new legislation.

But colleagues on the ground tell me that work on the new law has probably been relegated to the back burner. Reportedly, the Irish Department of Health, which leads the development of assisted reproductive technology (ART) legislation, is struggling to implement Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, which relates to parentage, donors and donor-conceived children’s rights.

Lawmakers’ snail pace has real consequences: In the absence of any law governing assisted reproduction in Ireland, authorities have stopped approving adoptions by intended parents of children conceived either through donor conception or surrogacy.

When new legislation finally does emerge, as currently proposed, it likely would essentially ban “commercial” surrogacy in Ireland and allow altruistic surrogacy only under certain narrow circumstances. Furthermore, the proposed legislation would do nothing to help most intended parents of babies born via surrogacy abroad establish legal parentage once they bring their child or children home to Ireland. And in a provision modeled on adoption law, the proposed new law would do away with donor anonymity, allowing donor-conceived children to receive information about parentage at age 18.  Although this provision arises from a concern for the rights of donor-conceived children to know their origins (a growing trend among many countries), some experts expect such provisions to put a damper on egg and sperm donations.

Ironically, as The Times reports, a 90-nation survey from 2017 revealed that Ireland—with no surrogacy laws on the books—has the second highest rate of surrogacy in the world, second only to Israel. According to BioNews, “Ireland's rates for assisted human reproduction has gone up from 7,589 cycles in 2009, to nearly 9,000 cycles in 2016.”

But the country’s conservative Catholic heritage has meant that social and legal acceptance of new reproductive technologies has come painfully slowly, at the expense of infertile couples, singles and LGBTQ intended parents.

A recent opinion piece in The Irish Times gives an excellent summary of Ireland’s fraught history of reproductive laws. Although the first “test tube baby,” Louise Brown, was born in 1977, the first IVF procedures were not available in Ireland until 1985. “However, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists drew up a set of principles and rules, treatment progressed, and the number of clinics offering IVF increased,” The Times reports. “…The Irish Clinical Embryologists Association was founded in 1998 to provide high standards of practice in clinical embryology.”

In 2000, the Irish Minister for Health established the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction, which in 2005 issued a report containing 40 recommendations governing “all aspects of assisted human reproduction,” all but six of them unanimous. However, unsurprisingly, several issues roused steep conservative opposition: “moral status of the embryo, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, regenerative medicine, surrogacy and the legal parenthood of children born through surrogacy.”

Stalled by the conflict, the Commission’s recommendations did not result in new laws. However, as a member of the European Union, Ireland incorporated the 2006 European Community Regulations on Quality and Safety of Human Tissues and Cells into its statutes, under which Irish IVF clinics currently are regulated.

A number of court challenges, the issue of the reproductive rights of gay married couples, and the growing demand for surrogacy in Ireland eventually forced reluctant lawmakers to address ART legislation.

As The Times reported, Irish courts have been buffeted by a series of cases brought by intended parents who underwent surrogacy either in Ireland or abroad, then ran into obstacles in establishing legal parentage. In one notorious case we wrote about in 2013, a woman volunteered to serve as surrogate so that her sister, who was unable to give  birth, and her sister’s husband could become parents. But once the baby was born, the Irish Register of Birth, while registering the intended father as the legal father, refused to register the intended mother as a legal parent. Instead, based on Irish law, the birth mother—the surrogate—was registered as the legal mother—even though her sister, whose egg was used, is the biological mother. The High Court found in favour of the biological/intended mother; however, that decision was reversed on appeal, with the result that the intended father is registered as the baby’s father and the sister-in- law—the surrogate—as the mother. The Supreme Court expressed the view that it is not the responsibility of the Court, but rather the function of the government, to craft surrogacy laws. We are still waiting...

Then in 2015, the same year as the United States, Ireland legalized same-sex marriage. Suddenly parents’ gender and the expectation that married LGBT people should have the same reproductive rights as married straight couples pushed the issue of surrogacy into the public eye. We wrote about the case of two gay dads forced unwillingly to undergo genetic testing in order to prove that their son, born via egg donation and surrogacy in Toronto, is entitled to Irish citizenship.

After too many years, the Oireachtas finally accepted its responsibility, undertaking review of the General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017, albeit at a painfully slow pace

The proposed bill is a mixed bag from the perspective of reproductive rights. Reportedly it would outlaw commercial, or compensated, surrogacy entirely in Ireland, but would allow altruistic surrogacy, governed by an enforceable surrogacy agreement, for “intending parents” who reside in Ireland, as long as the embryo transfer occurs in a clinic in Ireland. The embryo could be created by donated egg or sperm but must be genetically related to at least one of the intended parents. It is proposed that only gestational surrogacy be permitted; in other words, the surrogate’s egg may not be used in creating the embryo.

Under the proposed new law, the surrogate’s rights are paramount: she must give formal consent to become a surrogate and retains the right to change her mind at any stage; she must give formal consent to transfer parentage to the parents a second time following the birth. With the surrogate’s post-birth consent, the intended parents must apply to the courts for a parental order. Until that order is issued, the surrogate is the legal mother.

The new law does nothing to alleviate the obstacles to obtaining Irish citizenship for babies born via surrogacy in other countries, although it does help equalize the status of gay intended dads. As reported in BioNews, the foreign surrogate will still be considered the mother under the new law. The intended mother will be able to establish guardianship of the child after two years in accordance with Ireland’s Children and Family Relationships Act of 2015; the intended father may be recognized as the legal father, as long as he is genetically related to the child. Likewise, in the case of two gay dads who have a child via surrogacy abroad, the genetically related dad can establish himself as legal father under Irish law; the dad who is not genetically related can only establish himself as legal guardian—a status that ends when the child reaches age 18—after a two-year period, and will never be considered the child’s legal dad.

Despite Ireland’s continued rigid limits on domestic surrogacy and the failure to provide an easier path for families forced to pursue surrogacy in other countries, the passage of a comprehensive set of laws addressing assisted reproduction is a historic step in the right direction. At a minimum, a new Assisted Human Reproduction Bill will provide more certainty for families and better guidelines for ART providers, clinics and donor agencies where the law previously has simply dodged the issues. Here’s hoping it sails through the Irish Oireachtas and is enacted into law with no new encumbrances added. The popularity and potential of these exciting new technologies will without a doubt create their own pressure for further legal reforms that advance reproductive rights and equality for all families.




Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.