By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

UK, July 22, 2009 ( – An anonymous lesbian couple have won the right to in vitro fertilization (IVF) paid for by the National Health Service (NHS) after a legal battle with their local health trust, which initially refused them the service because they were of the same sex and the child would by fatherless.

The health trust withdrew their objection to funding the treatment for the lesbians, which was based on U.K. regulations that recognize the child's need for a father, because of a new regulation which takes effect in October that says couples will only need to demonstrate “supportive parenting” when requesting IVF.

The new rule is part of a general overhaul by the Department of Health of the rules governing IVF and related reproductive technologies. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, passed in 1990, required IVF facilities to include the welfare of the expected children in considering whether to go ahead with treatment. The act also stressed the importance of fathers to children.
But some critics of that law have said that restricting in vitro and other artificial methods of procreation to families with fathers was offensive and discriminatory to “unconventional families.”

Ruth Hunt, of the homosexual advocacy group Stonewall, said: “The changes in the law should mean that no infertile lesbian is refused NHS fertility treatment on the grounds of her sexual orientation.

“We have just published a guide on how to get pregnant for lesbians in response to lots of queries. This is a hot topic for us at the moment,” Hunt said in a Times report.

The new regulations, put forward by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), make it possible for women to name friends and acquaintances, as well as their lesbian partners, as a child's second parent, and muddle the identity of a child even further by ruling that women who conceive using their lesbian partner's eggs will still be listed as the mother of the child.

“If you give birth to a child, you will be that child's mother, whether the eggs used are your own or your partner's,” say the new rules. In such a case the lesbian partner would be automatically considered the “second parent.”

The Times reports that while lesbians now have the right to fertility treatment paid for by the government, many heterosexual couples continue to be denied IVF by the NHS. Only 27% of trusts offer heterosexual couples three cycles of IVF which the report says costs about £3,000 per cycle, as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the NHS guidance body.

Critics of the new regulations point to the escalating problems of broken families in British society and question the wisdom of encouraging, at taxpayers expense, parenting options that will lead to an exacerbation of these problems.

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe criticized the regulations, observing, “Every child has got a right to a father and this bill for the first time quite deliberately creates a situation where children are born without a father.

“A father plays a unique role in a child's life. The effect is quite simple. You're going to deprive a child from the outset.”

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith agreed with Widdecombe, saying, “The present Government seems not to care a damn about families.

“Teenage pregnancy is on the increase, abortion is on the increase, family breakdown is at record levels and we have got a growing number of dysfunctional children that are the product of broken homes. The lesson seems to be loud and clear to me that fathers are required.”

The “need for a father,” as well as a stable mother/father relationship as the best basis for the healthy nurturing of children has been well studied and documented.

For example, a massive study undertaken in Sweden and published last year in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Paediatrica, found that active father figures in a traditional mother/father home play a key role in reducing behavior problems in boys and psychological problems in young women.

The review looked at 24 papers published between 1987 and 2007, covering 22,300 individual sets of data from 16 studies. 18 of the 24 papers also covered the social economic status of the families studied.

“Our detailed 20-year review shows that overall, children reap positive benefits if they have active and regular engagement with a father figure” said Dr Anna Sarkadi from the Department of Women's and Children's Health at Uppsala University, Sweden.

“For example, we found various studies that showed that children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes.

“Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical well-being at the age of 33 if they had a good relationship with their father at 16.”

See related LSN articles:

Massive Study Finds Active Fathers are Essential for Well Adjusted Children

“Any” Person Can Be Listed as “Second Parent” for IVF Children: New UK Regulations

Fathers Not Necessary for Family – UK Health Minister


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