With a rising number of children born in Singapore through assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), a new law is being proposed to clarify who their legal parents are.
Besides conferring legal motherhood on the woman who carries the child, the law will, more importantly, address issues of who the legal father is.
Currently, no specific legislation addresses the legal parentage of children conceived through such methods.
According to a Ministry of Health spokesman, in 2010, there were 1,308 babies conceived through ART. In 2006, only 720 were conceived through this method.
A month-long public consultation starts today on the Status of Children (Assisted Reproduction Technology) Bill, put forth by the Ministry of Law.
The Bill covers three broad scenarios: Firstly, if a child was conceived with the sperm of the mother's husband. In such cases, the husband will be treated as the legal father.
The second scenario is if the sperm used does not belong to the husband of the woman. In this instance, the husband will be treated as the legal father, if he had consented to the treatment.
Legal fatherhood is also applied if the husband accepts the child as a child of the marriage, even though he did not consent to the fertilisation procedure.
The third scenario is if the mother is unmarried, but the child is conceived with sperm from her de facto partner, or if the partner accepts the child as a child of the relationship.
In such a case, the mother, child, or partner can apply for the partner to be declared the legal father. However, the child will not be considered legitimate.
The proposed Bill will also address cases of mix-ups, when the wrong sperm or embryo is used, either through negligence or mistake.
In such scenarios, the woman and her husband who consented to the fertilisation procedure will be the legal parents.
However, for the other party whose sperm or egg was used mistakenly, he or she can apply to the court to be declared as the legal parent, voiding the legality of the previous parents. This must be done within two years of discovery of the mistake.
The public can view the consultation paper and draft Bill at www.minlaw.gov.sg and www.reach.gov.sg/YourSay/E consultationpaper.aspx.
The Bill is likely to be introduced in Parliament in the first half of next year, and may come into force by the end of next year.
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