Too Old for Surrogacy?


Surrogacy is a great alternative for couples who cannot have children of their own. Surrogacy is a first-class option for gay or lesbian couples who would like to be parents. But should surrogacy be available to all?

In a similar way to adoption, should there come a point when people are told ‘You are too old to be new parents?’

Surrogacy has long been a topic bubbling under the surface of Irish society, but last week’s RTÉ documentary Her Body, Our Babies really put the spotlight on a practice about which not a lot is generally known. This programme raised a myriad of questions about commercial surrogacy, abortion, the total lack of a legal framework in Ireland, one partner being the biological parent and the other having no genetic connection to the child. And this couple in particular, Sean and Fiona, raised the important question of whether a time should come when the door is firmly closed on parenthood.

There’s no denying the science; people are living longer and healthier lives, but does this mean that it is okay for a couple in their early fifties to set out to become parents? At one point during the documentary Fiona tells her sister what is happening; that she and Sean will soon become parents to twins born in India to a surrogate. Fiona’s sister is astonished that someone of her age would want to enter into the mayhem of parenthood and she asks Fiona does she think she is too old. Fiona’s response is that if she lives for another twenty years the twins will be grown up and ‘sure they’ll be grand’.

Is this enough? Who would say they felt grown up at twenty? Who did not need their parents’ guidance after they were technically an adult? And is it not a lot to presume that if Fiona does live for another twenty years, those will be healthy years? Why have children knowing that they will inevitably have to deal with these challenges?

It happens; even people who become parents younger can die unexpectedly. Children have to adapt and they can be fine. Grandparents are often guardians in their winter years and the children live happy, wholesome lives. But is this what you would choose? Would you want your child to have to care for and worry about an elderly parent, would you want them to experience the trauma of grief at such a young age?

One could argue that children in Ireland are being born into much worse situations than having to deal with a Mammy who is a little slow on her feet or a Daddy who can never find his glasses, but there has to be a limit. At some point the good life that a couple can offer a child cannot outweigh the burden they will become. Is 50 the upper limit? 55? 60? When does parenting become a totally selfish exercise?

Surrogacy has made some wonderful people parents and has brought some remarkable individuals into the world but while the discussion of regulation is live and topical, add the question of age to the mix.

Without being ageist on the one hand or defensive on the other, let’s be realistic.

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