April 18, 2024


 Fathers will not be required for IVF children under a proposed shake- up of Britain’s fertility legislation. The Blair Government feels that a revision is needed because of changing social mores and the galloping pace of developments in reproductive technology. Its most controversial provision will allow single women and lesbians to access IVF. Both would be recognised as the parents.

Outspoken Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris welcomed the proposal. He said the existing act was "unjustifiable, discriminatory and vindictive. It was also unsustainable in human rights and equality terms. The evidence suggests children do very well brought up by lesbian couples and solo parents, so good riddance."

Dr Calum MacKellar, of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics disputed this: "It is possible that these children may only become aware of any psychological problems when they become adults or consider having children of their own."

Doing away with Dad is only one of 25 proposals to be presented to Parliament. Public health minister Caroline Flint has suggested a raft of changes. Some of these are designed to deal with awkward cases which have arisen over the past few years. These include: a one-year cooling off period after one of the partners wants embryos destroyed; extending the mandatory period for storing embryos from five to ten years; allowing screening of embryos for medical conditions and saviour siblings; gamete donor access to some information about their children; allowing donor-conceived children to find their siblings; and the creation of some hybrid embryos.

"A greater range of persons" will be able become legal parents of IVF children. Presumably this will allow homosexual couples to become parents without having to adopt a child. It is not clear from the information released by the government whether the range will be extended numerically as well to allow 3 or 4 people to become legal parents.

Although the tone of the recommendations is generally permissive, the Government does plan to ban sex selection for family balancing. This provoked an angry response from Guardian journalist Sarah Ebner: "I know of numerous families with two or three sons or daughters who would like to have another child, but only if they know it will be of the other sex… We’re facing a demographic disaster in this country and need all the children we can produce."