Wednesday, 14 May 2008

HFEA: In The Name Of The Father

The Human Fertilization & Embryology Bill currently going through the House of Commons is one of the most controversial in some time. Both Labour and Tory MPs are to be given free votes on particular amendments to the Bill or to the passing of the Bill as a whole.

One of these amendments, a bid to limit legal abortions to 20 weeks gestation rather than the current 24 weeks, has been given a great deal of coverage and generated a lot of comment. This, however, is not the subject of today's post.

Almost as contentious are proposals relating to the provision of IVF treatment to lesbian couples. The Bill as it stands will remove the requirement for a 'father figure' to be part of the upbringing of such a child. The Conservatives have proposed an amendment to restore said requirement. If passed, the amendment will, as lesbian activist Jane Czyzselska puts it, force lesbian couples to seek unregulated services. It will also introduce a conflict with sexual orientation equality regulations.

The issue has sparked some intense debate at Comment is Free. It is an issue upon which some libertarians, such as well-known commentator MrPikeBishop (Frank Fisher), consider what others would describe as prejudiced legislation to be justified:

"I have no proof, but I believe it to be so. With four kids I think I'm well placed to see that children benefit from the influence of a male and a female, and ideally that's their mum and their dad. While there will be children raised outside this norm that will do well, and those within it who will do badly, I believe that for the majority, it is the best background.

But hey, let's continue the grand experiment of screwing over generations of children with no real though for where we might be heading, taking no notice of the chaos around us that *surely* can't have anything to do with our marvelous lust for individual happiness, equality and all that guff eh?"
- MrPikeBishop

In response, I suggested that for a libertarian, this surely represented an unwarranted interference in individual freedom. Of course, as one commenter pointed out, the legislation relates to a service provided by government (in the form of the NHS) in the first place. This is a tangled web indeed.

As is often the case, neither side of the debate presents a particularly appealing argument. Too often, the pro (in favour of the Government's wording of the Bill) side resorts to slinging casual accusations of homophobia or general prejudice. Too often, the anti-side has given us little other than the moralistic preaching that, with some justification, is intrinsic to the Conservative stereotype.

After pushing aside the crap, both sides are making some good points. However, leaving the payment issue aside, if there's any one contribution that swings the debate towards one side it is this one, from the amusingly named 'dialaview' arguing in favour of the Government proposals:
"That two women could not raise a child as successfully as a man and a woman is patent horse-shit.

Millions of children were raised by women after World War One and a generation of children was created that had enough gumption to beat the Nazis (who would have solved this problem by gassing potential gay parents anyway). Then, extended families would take on the burden of raising the child.

Sadly, after 10 years of a 'Labour' government, what dictates a child's potential success now is not the gender of its parents, or who they have sex with, but how much money they earn. A lesbian who can afford thousands of pounds of IVF will be able to giver her child a decent education in comfortable surroundings.

I think IVF is pretty narcissistic considering the number of children that need fostering and adopting in the world, but what is good for the heterosexual goose and gander is good for the gay goose and goose, or gander and gander."
- dialaview

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