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IVF: Law on Parenthood Set to Get Clearer

  Tuesday, 20 l 11 l 2012  Source:  The Straits Times   
By: Poon Chian Hui

ivf-parenthoodWhat if there’s a mistake? Ministry outlines 5 options for public feedback

IN BLUNDERS where a baby is born using the wrong egg, sperm or embryo, the law is set to be clearer on who the child’s rightful parents should be. The Law Ministry, in seeking public views for a proposed new Act, is outlining five options for this public consultation. For now, its preferred option is for the woman who gave birth to the child and her husband to be the default parents. But any interested party – like the person whose egg or sperm was accidentally used – can apply to the court to be declared as the child’s parent. This, however, has to be done within two years after the mistake is discovered.

Having default parents will ensure the child will not be left parentless if no one wants him after the mistake is discovered, said the ministry. In any case, when a third party challenges on parenthood, the court will have to consider what is in the child’s best interests. This would include the child’s own wishes, his age, his relationship with siblings, the conduct of the parties involved, and the ability of the contesting parent to provide for him. The ministry said it also looked at four other options, but does not recommend them.

However, the public can give their take on whether they prefer these options. The other options are:

  • The court decides on a caseby- case basis who the mother and father ought to be. For example, the birth mother and the sperm donor may be declared the parents instead of the husband. Both couples may also end up as the legal parents. In the worst-case scenario, the child could be left parentless.
  • The court determines only who the legal mother is. The man who is married to her will automatically be the father. Meanwhile, the other couple can apply to be made guardians, and visit the child. It is possible that no one would want the child as well.
  • The birth mother and her husband are deemed to be the parents. Anyone else, such as the egg or sperm donor, has no rights to the child and the courts cannot overturn this. This relationship holds even if the child is not welcome by the couple. If the couple does not want the child, they have to give him up for adoption.
  • Both couples involved will be the child’s parents – whether they want it or not.

This means the child ends up with four legal parents. In addition to introducing The Status of Children (Assisted Reproduction Technology) Bill, the ministry is updating the Evidence Act. This is to allow evidence such as scientific tests to be used to dispute paternity. Currently, a man is presumed to be the father of a child born during his marriage, unless he proves he could not have slept with the woman when the child was conceived. The ministry is also amending the Legitimacy Act to allow those born to mothers who reside in Singapore to be recognised as legitimate. Currently, they are deemed so only if their fathers reside here.

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