Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health

General Scheme of Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017: Discussion (Resumed)

9:00 am

Ms Emma O'Friel:

I thank the committee for the opportunity to speak. In recent years, since doing my masters degree in psychological science, I have researched the practice of donor-assisted human reproduction. I have found no evidence that it prioritises the best interest of the child. It prioritises adult interests. Donor-conceived people are the only party who not only do not benefit but are harmed. Our parentage is a straightforward, unaltered relationship. Donor-conceived people's parentage is altered at the hands of a third party before they are even conceived. State practices acknowledge the primacy of a child only being removed from kin as a last resort, yet we do not apply this protection to donor-conceived children. We ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to know and be cared for by our natural parents, yet we do not apply it equally to donor-conceived children. We teach our secondary school children that every human being without exception comes from one man and one woman. We expect donor-conceived children to have no knowledge of this man or woman. We talk about family likenesses, cousins, heritage, and ancestry, yet we deny donor-conceived people this essential part of belonging. We tell them that their genetic family does not matter while we would not be without ours. We give them, or propose to give them, birth certificates that differ from ours. We make them unequal and try to convince them that they are special.

This Bill will consolidate the disadvantaged position of donor-conceived people who will be bound by law to accept inequality. The longing for a child cannot override the child's need to know the people from whom he or she comes. To say that the donor-conceived child playing or at school is doing fine is an inaccurate measure. Adoptees of the previous century as children would have shown little or no sign of the pain to come. The impact of injustices done in childhood can only be dealt with in adulthood. There are thousands of donor-conceived people worldwide who testify to the long-term harm. The Adoption Rights Alliance describes layers and layers of parallels with adoption practices and those of donor-assisted human reproduction. Psychological well-being is bound with a solid sense of self, formed by integrating all the elements of who we are. Our genetic identity provides us with a sense of belonging. It grounds us in space and time. It answers the question of to whom one is related.

I am very concerned by the commercial nature of this industry, by the misuse of language and concepts, the dehumanising rhetoric and the exploitation of students and young Ukrainian and Czech mothers needing cash, recruited on Facebook to breed. I am concerned that in a town called Brno live 350 young Czech women whose biological children live in Ireland with false birth certificates, not allowed ever to know them. I am concerned that an Irish clinic's partner in Ukraine spoke of expanding into new markets in India and sends weekly publicity emails to potential clients offering discounts, even, cruelly, Mother's Day specials. I am concerned that this industry refers to a child's right to his or her identity as "utterly meaningless" and argues in favour of donor anonymity when we have acknowledged that it is grossly harmful.

Donor-assisted human reproduction does not treat infertility. The infertile person remains, sadly, infertile. It is simply the outsourcing of a young fertile person to have a child remotely and sign away all contact. There is no mention of the thousands of children born in Ireland through anonymous parentage who carry false birth certificates, most of whom are still minors, because this practice has really only flourished in the past 18 years or so. According to one clinic, most of them will never be told the truth. We will be complicit if we do not halt a practice that we know causes profound human suffering. Will we say to these future adults that we did not know? We know.

That was short because Dr. Rose and I have split our five minutes.