Landmark Irish Parentage Ruling

In a landmark case, the genetic mother of twins born to a surrogate triumphed over the Irish government, winning the right to be listed as the mother on the birth certificates of her children.

In January the Irish government closed its case against the unnamed woman. Due to medical reasons, she was unable to carry her own children to term. Her sister, voluntarily and altruistically, agreed to carry her children. The twins born via the sister surrogate are the biological children of the woman seeking to be named as mother and her husband.

Citing the common law principle of mater semper certa est (motherhood is always certain), Mary O’Toole SC, the Irish government’s barrister, stated her case:

Ms O’Toole said the 1983 abortion amendment to the Constitution made it “absolutely clear” that the mother of a child was the woman who gave birth to the child.

She said the common law principle mater semper certa est (motherhood is always certain) was imported into the Constitution in 1983 via article 40.3.3. The legislature could allow for the transfer of maternal rights, but the mother must always be the birth mother.

But in a positive precedent for future assisted reproductive technology cases, as reported  March 6 by Irish Central:

Genetic mother of twins wins historic Irish surrogacy case.

Dublin High Court Justice Henry Abbott ruled that the 1937 constitution on which the government’s case was dependent needed to be updated to reflect current technologies and advancement in infertility treatment.

On Tuesday Dublin High Court Justice Henry Abbott said that these 1937 laws governing birth certificates and parentage needed to be updated to reflect the growing use of artificial insemination, embryo implantation, and other fertility techniques.

Justice Abbott went on to suggest that the fairest way to ascertain both maternal and paternal status is through genetics.

“To achieve fairness and constitutional and natural justice for both the paternal and maternal genetic parents, the feasible inquiry in relation to maternity ought to be made on a genetic basis and, on being proven, the genetic mother should be registered as the mother,” the Judge said.

Marion Campbell, lawyer for the biological parents expressed optimism for continuing evolution of fertility law and spoke of the family’s joy at the case’s resolution.

“It has been a very long, hard and emotional time for them, and they would like to express their thanks for the support shown to them by their family, friends and legal representatives.

“It is to be hoped now that much-needed legislation in relation to this whole difficult area of surrogacy and that children born by surrogacy arrangements will have their rights enshrined in such legislation."

Even though this specific decision has supported the rights of the genetic mother, the “whole difficult area” of surrogacy requires more legislation before the rights of all children born through surrogacy and other ART methods are assured of legal protection.

An Irish government-convened commission on human reproduction determined eight years ago that surrogacy should be permitted and regulated. The commission also suggested that a child born through surrogacy should be presumed to be the legal child of the commissioning couple. Despite these findings, however, the commission and the government took no action to move forward.

Geoffrey Shannon, the Government's Special Rapporteur (a person appointed by an organization to report on its proceedings) on Child Protection said he believes that additional legislation is needed and that barring this legislation children born of surrogacy could be left in legal limbo.

This latest ruling by the Irish courts is a step in the right direction.

Rich Vaughn
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 received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast 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 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. 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, 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. 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.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 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 of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also 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.