Confronting the Threat of Stable Two-Parent Families

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Calls for further regulation of the U.S. fertility industry are often framed as requests for an innocuous "national dialogue" about reproductive technologies. Britain, having created the Human Embryology and Fertility Authority, has helpfully transformed every minor reproductive issue into such a dialogue. Here's what that elevated reproductive democracy looks like:

Proposals to make it easier for lesbian and gay couples to have IVF babies have been heavily criticised in the Lords.

A number of peers opposed moves to remove a requirement for IVF clinics to consider "the need of that child for a father" before offering treatment.

They said it would be a "huge error" and the Lords should reaffirm the importance of both parents.

Under existing law, a partner has to apply to "adopt" the child.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, was among critics—he argued that the government was putting "the right to be a parent over the welfare of a child".

He said there was "all the difference in the world" between a single-parent family and a fatherless child "by design"

"And this is precisely what the government proposes in this Bill—the removal by design of the father of the child."

Another crossbencher, Lord Alton, added: "The government decision to remove the reference for a need for a father is a huge error."

"An estimated 800,000 children in Britain already have no contact with their father and to deliberately add to their number seems to me to be downright irresponsible."

Debates like this become confused in a way that actual individuals seeking IVF never seem to. If the number 800,000 is alarming, it is alarming because a significant number of those children are growing up in single parent households, and single parent households are correlated with a variety of negative outcomes. But the law being proposed would offer couples the full rights of parenthood, whereas current law allows only the woman carrying the baby to initially claim those rights. Alton's argument is something like saying that we can't allow substitute teachers in government schools, since an alarming number of kids don't have teachers at all.

Opponents of IVF like to conflate the legal/social category of father with the biological fact of fatherhood. To say that a bill like this constitutes "the removal by design of the father of the child" suggests a total inability to separate the need for a gamete from the need for a guardian. Some lesbian couples would like to buy gametes. They don't need a third parental figure. This is not difficult for IVF-seeking lesbians to understand, but it tends to be very difficult for archbishops to understand.

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  1. I’ve never understood why so many folks get their tits in a flutter of IVF. Leave people alone, dammit. The children of gay/lesbian couples that are is willing to pay big bucks for them, are assuredly better off than the children naturally conceived amidst the welfare mentality possessed by parts of our and Britains, societies.

    Get this through your thick skulls “conservatives”, those folks are gay, not evil. Sheesh!

  2. A year or so I read an article about single men who hired surrogate mothers so that they could have children. Nothing gay, just dudes who had given up on the marriage thing but still wanted a kid.

    I wonder if the Archbishop would have more, the same or less of a problem with that.

  3. Surely some of them are evil, trying to have kids just to make their ex-lover jealous. If we’re going to assert that all people have equal rights, we should acknowledge that bad personal traits exist in the gay community in the same proportion as in the straight community. [/snark]

  4. A year or so ago.

    It didn’t actually take me a year to read the article.

  5. I read in my psychology text book that kids of lesbian couples have an increased likelyhood of succeeding in school. I always imagined that years into the future that’ll become the stereotype;
    “Wow, Jimmy really mastered that math test, his parents must be lesbians”

  6. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, was among critics – he argued that the government was putting “the right to be a parent over the welfare of a child”.

    What a tired argument. First of all, it shouldn’t even be the government’s role to allow or disallow IVF for gay couples. Second, it’s a false choice:
    “right to be a parent” OR “welfare of a child.”

    Ass

  7. Elevated Reproductive Democracy = band name.

  8. How do gays have a child by IVF? Forgive me for being blunt, but don’t you still need a uterus available in which the embryo can implant?

  9. How do gays have a child by IVF? Forgive me for being blunt, but don’t you still need a uterus available in which the embryo can implant?

    I think lesbians count as gays.

  10. Forgive me for being blunt, but don’t you still need a uterus available in which the embryo can implant?

    The Judean People’s Front can still fight for the right of men to have babies…

  11. How do gays have a child by IVF? Forgive me for being blunt, but don’t you still need a uterus available in which the embryo can implant?

    Add one surrogate mother (Rent-A-Womb?) and it’s done.

  12. Besides what Kerry said, I’ll mention Judith Rich Harris, too. She’s going to have the last laugh on the subject of child development. Count on it.

  13. mike,

    From the article:

    Proposals to make it easier for lesbian and gay couples to have IVF babies have been heavily criticised in the Lords.

  14. “national dialogue” about reproductive technologies.

    Hmm, yeah, those social coservatives have been subjecting us to a “national dialogue” about reproductive technologies and rights for a very long time. It’s good to know the left is finally listening. I guess. Or… not?

    But seriously, this has been cracking me up for a long time. NPR did a couple of stories on some groups who have been engaged in nervous hand-wringing over the fact that the fertility “industry” is unregulated. That there could be women out there getting the run around by this unscrupulous segment of the medical community.

    Getting government involved is always where the solution wends its weary way. I wonder what might happen if we politicize the fertility process? Hmph, methinks the blockquoted section in the post says it all.

  15. I think lesbians count as gays.

    Mike, you might want to send a telegram to: PFLAG.

  16. Before you come down exclusively on conservatives and archbishops, consider the New Jersey Supreme Court in the famous “Baby M” case which banned surrogate mother contracts in the state.

    The Court, in part, agreed with the feminist argument that surrogate mother contracts would create a world in which poor women would carry babies for rich people. Implicit in this argument is the assumption that “poor” women are incapable of deciding for themselves whether to engage in surrogacy, and that feminists and the Court need to protect “poor” women from themselves.

    Reproductive regulation comes in all ideological colors, but at least the conservatives and archbishops are consistent. They oppose abortion, whereas the feminists champion “choice” — provided you “choose” as they want you to.

  17. It’s one thing to have a child grow up without one of its natural parents because of Dad getting killer or deserting the family, or because Mom wanted to go off to California and find herself, or because of some other tragedy.

    It’s another thing to deliberately *plan* a situation in which a child will be raised without one of its natural parents.

    Yes, I used the “n”-word (natural). Commence foaming at the mouth.

  18. Judean People’s Fronts

    One man, one front, please. We’re greedy, but not that greedy.

  19. [Dad] deserting the family, or because Mom wanted to go off to California and find herself

    One in the same.

    When Dad does it, it’s a selfish, shallow act. When Mom does it, she’s on an emotional journey of self-discovery, breaking free from the shackles of her emotionally stifling marriage.

    But I’m not bitter or anything.

  20. It’s another thing to deliberately *plan* a situation in which a child will be raised without one of its natural parents.

    I work in a family violence/sexual assault agency. “Natural parent” doesn’t mean squat if you want to insure a quality childhood.

  21. LarryA,

    It would certainly help if the natural parents got married (to each other) before having children.

    I’m just curious – how many of the “natural parents” at your job were married to each other before (even three months before) the birth of their kids?

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