An independent senator’s comments on surrogacy at an Oireachtas committee yesterday were “crude and offensive” to the parents addressing the hearing.
That’s according to Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery-Kearney who has criticised her fellow Senator Sharon Keogan for comments she made a yesterday’s committee which is tasked with examining Ireland’s laws on the regulation of surrogacy.
The committee was suspended yesterday after Senator Keogan said she viewed surrogacy as “harmful, exploitative and unethical’.
She made the comments after several parents had set out their own experiences dealing with laws that do not recognise women as the mothers of their biological children where they were born through surrogacy.
The laws can mean genetic mothers have no legal relationship with their children – and must apply for guardian status when they reach the age of two.
As a result, they are blocked from carrying out everyday tasks, including travelling abroad, attending medical appointments and apply for passports for their children.
“I wholeheartedly object to the commercialisation of the human child and relegation of women to the status of simply incubators or wombs for hire,” Senator Keogan told the commitee. “Irrespective of whether you are heterosexual, single, lesbian, gay or trans.
“Surrogacy, I believe, is harmful, it is exploitative and it is unethical. I don’t believe it is everyone’s right to have a child. It is a privilege to give birth and it can be dangerous even to those with the best medical attention.”
"Crude and offensive"
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Children and Equality Senator Mary Seery-Kearney said her words were “crude and offensive” to people addressing the committee.
“She was using crude terms and the tropes of far-right positions like incubators and wombs for hire to the very people who are sitting there sharing their harrowing experiences,” she said.
“She was speaking to disability activists who have been denied assisted human reproduction opportunities.
“She was speaking to woman who was a cancer survivor who required surrogacy in order to grow her family. She was speaking to gay families.”
She said Senator Keogan has right to express her opinion – but insisted there was no need to attack people who were only there to “set out their lived experience of the absence of legislation”.
“Our duty as Parliamentarians is to listen to those ordinary people,” she said. “We weren’t dealing with academics or professionals yesterday.”
“We were dealing with the lived experiences of ordinary people who can’t sign consent forms for their children; who can’t apply for passports for their children and who can’t enrol their children a nursery.
“There are women throughout this country and spouses of the legally recognised parent who are vulnerable in the case of relationship breakdown because they have no legal relationship with their own child – and in many instances, that is their biological child.”
Senator Keogan has written to the chair of the committee Jennifer Whitmore TD taking issue with claims her words were inflammatory.
She also objected to what she termed a “deeply personal attack” from Senator Lynn Ruane – who had accused her of taking “personal bigotry” to the conversation.
She has previously labelled the committee and “echo-chamber” and called for evidence from a wider variety of witnesses.