The Irish Supreme Court has heard an appeal over surrogacy parenthood, reserving its decision for a later date.
The hearing, which ran for almost four days before concluding last week, concerned an appeal brought by the Irish Government against a High Court decision last year that allowed a woman who is the genetic mother of twins born to a surrogate to be recognised as a legal parent (reported in BioNews 696).
The State argued that a surrogate who gives birth to a child using another woman's genetic material must be registered as the child's mother.
Michael McDowell SC, opening for the State before a seven-judge Supreme Court, explained that the basis for motherhood is that motherhood involves pregnancy and, in law, cannot be based on genetics.
He further added that it would be of 'grave public concern' with consequences for citizenship, succession and the criminal law if the High Court decision is not overturned by the Supreme Court.
Mr McDowell said that the genetic parents, if successful, would 'put in complete doubt' the status of numerous women who consider themselves as mothers after giving birth to children conceived using donated eggs.
Any changes to the law on motherhood should be made by the Irish Parliament, he said, not the courts.
For the parents, Gerry Durcan SC said the international trend was to establish parentage by the presence or absence of genetic links. He added that due to certain advances in science, the birth mother and gestational mother are not always one and the same. However, genetic parentage could be established with certainty through genetic testing.
The surrogate involved in this case is a sister of the genetic mother and consented to the couple to be registered as the birth parents. She expressed support for the genetic parents' position and described the pregnancy as an 'act of love'.
The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, said that the case raised significant matters and the court reserved its judgment.