April 21, 2024


 British fathers are to be deemed redundant in the most radical shake-up of fertility laws in 16 years. The Blair Labour government is studying reforms to UK’s out-dated 1990 Fertilisation and Embryology Act. The most prominent of these are banning sex selection of embryos and dropping a provision which stipulates that IVF clinics must consider a child’s need for a father before providing treatment. Public Health Minister Caroline Flint says told a parliamentary committee that "we are minded to retain a duty in terms of the welfare of the child, but we are thinking that there is less of a case for retaining the law in reference to a father… What’s important is that the children are going to be, as far as we know, part of a loving home."

Susan Crane, a former board member of the lesbian and gay group Pink Parents, hailed the move and described the old law as "an anachronism that was judgmental and insulting". However, Josephine Quintavalle, of the lobby group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, rubbished it as "politically correct gender politics gone mad".

Even more radical than tinkering with family structures is a recent suggestion by a medical ethicist at Imperial College, London, Anna Smajdor. Writing in BioNews, she suggests that a relationship with genetic parents is irrelevant. The possibility of creating artificial sperm, she argues, heralds an era in which we can demystify our concepts of genes and parenthood". "To benefit from the advantages that stem cell research may have to offer," she continues, "we need to move away from the genetically simplistic concept of parenthood that currently prevails."