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The Government have refused to recognise an Irish couple's adoption of a young Mexican girl, because it did not meet the strict requirements of the Hague Convention on international adoption.
But when a similar case arose where the parents obtained a child through surrogacy in India, the State took a very different approach.
In both cases, the circumstances had been tough on the parents. The couple trying to adopt from Mexico, who are now taking their case to the High Court, went through what was reportedly an “onerous” adoption process, including having to stay in Mexico for six months.
In this, the Government's stance is based on strict adherence to its policy that adoptions must be in line with the Hague Convention even though the child may well have bonded with the couple and the couple are acting in good faith.
The Government is taking this line to discourage other couples from acting outside the Hague Convention. They know this could be against the interest of other children even if in this case it might be better to allow the couple to proceed with the adoption.
But when it came to the couple who had commissioned a child through surrogacy, the issue became a cause celebre, mentioned in the Dáil. It was insisted that a legal relationship between the child and the parents (they are the genetic parents) be created for the sake of the child.
No-one suggested the State ought to resist creating a legal relationship in order to discourage surrogacy for the sake of both the surrogates and the children thereby created.
The arguments against surrogacy are very strong. It violates the well recognised legal principle that ‘the mother must always be certain’. Instead it deliberately splits motherhood between a birth mother, a genetic mother and possibly a ‘social mother’ as well. This is one reason that many European countries ban surrogacy outright.
Another reason is that surrogacy is also almost inherently exploitative, with wealthy Western couples usually using the wombs of younger, economically vulnerable women mostly from the developing world.
Adoption certainly needs to be properly regulated. But adoption isn’t an inherently flawed practice. Surrogacy is. Therefore why the very different approach by the State to the two couples in question? In the adoption case it is being very strict and in the surrogacy case, much more lenient.