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LGCM welcomes ruling on fathers

29 May 2008

by Ed Beavan

THE Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) has welcomed Parliament’s rejection of amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, as a result of which a legal requirement for doctors to consider the need for a father before allowing women IVF treatment will be removed.

During the second reading of the Bill last week, the Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith put forward an amendment. He called for IVF clinics to continue to consider the “need for a father” for any children born as a result of IVF, which often involves lesbian couples.

MPs rejected the amendment by 292 to 217, while a second vote on the issue was also defeated, by 290 to 222.

The Chief Executive of the LGCM, the Revd Richard Kirker, said it was “quite right” that the law prioritised the quality of care children received over the sexuality of their parents. He said that, had the amendments been successful, it would have led to the continued stigmatisation of same-sex couples.

“If these amendments had been passed, it would have said same-sex parents or single parents are in some way less than complete or inadequate. These days there are a variety of models for bringing up children, and the law should take note of this reality.

“The evidence shows there are no inevitable negative consequences for young people raised by same-sex couples, and attempts to impose the role of the father-figure into family settings are unnecessary and futile.”

The second reading of the Bill also saw a failed attempt to reduce the upper limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 20. There was backing for moves to create hybrid embryos and “saviour siblings”.

But the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, criticised the decision. “It is strange that a government should pass a law denying a child the right to a named father. The cement of society is the family, and the presence of a father and a mother.”

He said that, despite the “disappointing” results on the abortion vote, the issue would “not go away”.

“Whilst the law affects attitudes, it does not in itself compel anyone to have an abortion. There are many people on all sides of this debate who agree that 200,000 abortions a year is far too many, and abortion on this scale can only be a source of profound sadness and distress to us all.

“We can and should work together at least to make abortion much rarer.”

Andrea Minichiello Williams, public-policy director of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, which had lobbied hard against hybrid embryos, and for the reduction of the abortion upper limit, said: “We have lost this battle, but we must continue to speak up on behalf of light and truth in this nation. We must not give up, for the sake of the children.”

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