A possible solution for lesbian mothers?

Registers Iceland has sent the Ministry of Internal Affairs a memo, proposing a change of the Act in Respect of Children, that might end the discrimination against lesbian mothers. The institution states an amendment is needed in the Act, by including a mater-est clause, comparable to the pater-est rule. That would mean that if a lesbian couple, either married or in registered partnership, conceives with assisted reproductive technique, the “non-carrying” mother automatically becomes the child’s other parent by law.

Margrét Hauksdóttir, the director of Registers Iceland.
Margrét Hauksdóttir, the director of Registers Iceland.

This is Registers Iceland’s (i. Þjóðskrá) response to criticism last September, spurred by a lesbian couple’s resistance to provide the institution with a confirmation of consent for the assisted reproductive technique used in the conception of their child.

The mother who did not carry the child received a letter from Registers Iceland, only days after the child’s birth, where the confirmation was asked for. It was made clear that If she failed to turn in the document, she would not be registered as the child’s parent. Interviewed by Vísir, the mother in question explained how going against an institution such as Registers Iceland at such a vulnerable time in life made her angry.

Registers Iceland has not only responded by recommending the implementation of the ‘Mater est’ rule. The institution has also changed the procedure of receiving the confirmation of consent from the new mothers. From now on, when two women sign the consent to undergo the procedure of assisted reproductive technique, they also give ART Medica [Iceland’s only infertility clinic] the permission to send the information to Registers Iceland.

“We acknowledge that receiving a letter of this kind can be disturbing for the new mother. However, under the Act in Respect to Children, we are obliged to ask for the confirmation of consent of the mother who does not carry the child,” says Margrét Hauksdóttir, the director of Registers Iceland.

“We are now moving back to a similar way it used to be, when we got confirmation on the consent sent directly from ART Medica. In 2013 a lesbian mother complained to The Althing Ombudsman (i. Umboðsmaður Alþingis) that Registers Iceland seeked confirmation on her consent without her permission or her knowledge. For that reason ART Medica informed Registers Iceland that they would stop sending the agency the information. At that point Registers Iceland started sending out the letters.

Later the Ombudsman came to the conclusion that Registers was allowed to ask for personal information of this kind.

“We are now moving back to a similar way it used to be, when we got confirmation on the consent sent directly from ART Medica.”

With recent press coverage it has become clearer that receiving a letter of this kind is uncomfortable for the new mothers, especially during the first days of the child’s life. Therefore we are allowed to ask for the information at ART Medica but we want to make sure that all parties have knowledge and accept that ART Medica sends a confirmation on the consent.”

In opposite-sex relationships the males will not have to provide Registers Iceland with this confirmation of consent, according to Margrét. Even in cases where donor sperm is used, which should make their situation comparable to that of lesbian couple’s. So, in spite of Registers Iceland’s steps in the right directions, lesbians are still being discriminated against.

Margrét says that it has not been considered to have men, who have used assisted conception treatment, undergo the same procedure as women; that is, give ART Medica the permission to send their consent to Registers Iceland. “A woman’s husband is, by law, registered as the father of her child. While the law is as it is we can not demand the same of a husband as we as ask of a wife of a woman. We do not have the legal basis to do so.”

She says that Registers Iceland have now done their part to move towards eliminating the discrimination lesbians face. The rest is now in the hands of The Ministry of Internal Affairs (i. Innanríkisráðuneyti) and Alþingi.

See also: “Þjóðskrá has long known and done nothing”
“One rule for all couples”

Main photo: Shows The Ministry of Internal Affairs, screen shot taken from a news clip on RÚV.

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