ILMI opening statement to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on International Surrogacy

Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI) opening statement to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on International Surrogacy, Thursday, 5 May 2022

Representatives: Selina Bonnie MA and Dr Áine Sperrin

Statement from Selina Bonnie MA:
Thank you for the opportunity today to return to speak to you on behalf of Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI), whose aim is to support disabled persons to achieve Independent Living, choice and control over our lives and full participation in society as equal citizens. This morning I am joined by my colleague Dr Áine Sperrin to outline why Assisted Human Reproduction and indeed international surrogacy are relevant to the lives and dreams of disabled persons. Before I handover to my colleague who will detail vital learning from the Re(al) Productive Justice project I want to briefly remind you of a few of the key facts outlined for you at a previous committee session.

My statement is based on my experience as a disabled person, a mother and reproductive justice activist. I am Vice Chair of Independent Living Movement Ireland, a member of the AHR Coalition and a regional ambassador for the NUIG Centre for Disability Law and Policy Re(al) Productive Justice project. I am also a ‘survivor’ (and I do not use that word lightly), of the Assisted Human Reproduction system in Ireland.

ILMI are members of the AHR Coalition because our members and the wider disabled persons movement have an important contribution to make to the development of this essential legislation. We believe that joining with like-minded reproductive justice groups and working in an intersectional way will be the most effective way to achieve rights based AHR legislation and services in Ireland. 

We are here today in a very public setting to implore you to consider the most private of rights which go to the very core of human existence and which have been largely denied to disabled persons thus far.

Historically disabled persons have been considered passive dependent recipients of care, eternal children, vulnerable people to be fixed or hidden away in the family home, or involuntarily incarcerated in various facilities and institutions. We were considered asexual, or our sexual desires were considered problems to be ‘managed’. Disabled women in particular have been considered most vulnerable. These varied and widespread misconceptions have had a detrimental impact on disabled persons access to reproductive justice and fulfillment. It is important to acknowledge the historical treatment of disabled persons to understand why it is essential to hear the voice and experiences of disabled persons in change making spaces such as this Committee.

The purpose of ILMI’s statement today is to:
  • put the voice of disabled persons who have lived experience of infertility, and the need for inclusive access to AHR and surrogacy (both important components of reproductive justice) on record;
  • stress the importance of your deliberations and recommendations being underpinned by an understanding of intersectionality; and
  • remind members of Ireland’s responsibilities under Article 23 of the UNCRPD which is concerned with respect for home and the family, including the right of disabled persons to found a family.

Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how social identities overlap with one another. What makes disability unique is that anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic status can become a disabled person at any stage in their life.

My personal journey to motherhood took 15 years and involved two miscarriages, one preterm daughter Ashika Noor who lived for one hour, one failed IVF treatment and finally in 2007 the birth of our precious daughter Saira Noor. My journey also included exclusion from intercountry adoption due to my being considered incapable of being a mother due being a disabled woman. My experiences are not unique, but they are very private. However, I am sharing our story with you because I hope that through your actions, other disabled persons, and disabled intending parents, will not experience as much heartache, exclusion and prejudice in the future. Ableist attitudes exist across assisted human