Sunday, November 18, 2007

Is It Really About 'Abolishing Fatherhood'?

The Mail on Sunday's front page screams BATTLE FOR A CHILD'S RIGHT TO A FATHER. It accuses the government of wanting to drive the last nail in the coffin of the traditional family. The article centres on the government's proposed legislation to give Lesbians full parental rights over test-tube babies. The father's role would be redundant after donating the sperm. Apparently, as the law stands at the moment IVF clinics have to ensure that the spermdonor is given the chance to be involved in the upbringing of the child. The new law removes that right for the father. MPs from all parties are opposing the proposal, but it will undoubtedly be whipped through.

I find this a really difficult issue. Ideally every child would be brought up by a mother AND a father. Many of society's problems stem from the fact that many children nowadays have nomale influence in their life. However, we must deal with society as it is today, not how we might like it to be. The most important thing for any child is to have a stable upbringing in a loving home. Gay and Lesbian couple are very able to provide such an environment and thousands of them do today, mainly through adoption.

Iain Duncan Smith has written a powerful comment piece in the Mail on Sunday asserting that Labour is sending out the signal that father's don't matter. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor says: "It radically undermines the place of the father in a child'slife and makethe natural rights of the child subordinate to the couple's desires.'

Those in favour of the legislation point out that it will affect no more than a few hundred couples a year and accuse those arguing against of using specious arguments which mask their own homophobia.

I make no apology for being genuinely undecided on this issue. I can see both sides of the argument. I will be following the debates closely and make up my mind when I have heard, and understood, all the arguments.

21 comments:

Graeme said...

I'm usually hopelessly in two minds about all these pieces of legislation (and as usual you are to be saluted for being open and honest in your comments) but I actually find this one quite easy to decide about. Children need fathers. Fathers are not biological extras, machines for the delivery of DNA. It's being in agreement with people like Cardinal O'Murphy that makes this disagreeable to me!

Matthew said...

Course it ain't about abolishing fatherhood. It's about making sure when lesbian couples use IVF they aren't beholden to the man who happened to provide the necessary fluids (which, let's face it, isn't the greatest challenge in the world). True, there's a separate (and quite strong) argument against it in the sense that the child might still want to find out who the other biological parent is. But there is no threat to fatherhood as a concept in itself - the number of people this will affect is simply too tiny.

Also, it seems to me that two people who are clearly in a committed relationship and who have presumably (given the practical challenges involved) put a great deal of thought into planning parenthood are on average more likely to make good parents than a couple drawn randomly from the rest of the population. Why not give them what they need to make a happy home - one component of which would be the security of knowing that they and they alone are the legal parents of the child?

Lastly, outside of the IVF debate, I see no rationale for lesbian parenthood to be treated in a different manner to the treatment of single parenthood or a situation in which a child is brought up in a home with two women outside of a sexual relationship - mother and grandmother, for example - other than a rationale based on homophobia. Unless we want to insist that ONLY a man and woman together may bring up children, then we should make room for the raising of children by a stable lesbian couple.

nick@backlash-uk.org.uk said...

I have never been convinced by any underlying philosophical explanation that children "need" fathers specifically. I think there are plenty of things that children need both physical and spiritual but why those things have to be delivered with someone with an averagely deeper voice, more body hair and greater height has never really been explained to.

I can understand having a position in favour of two (or more) guardians who are in a close relationship (call them parents) for the pragmatic reasons that it is terribly difficult to bring up a child on your own, whichever gender you are. But that particular point has been lost in the conservative discourse which, even after it has disposed of its homophobia, is still too gender essensialist to tacke the problem pragmatically.

I don't know what religious leaders have to say but I think a moral conception of who should bring up a family is whoever is capable of and genuinely desires to, and preferably without too much help from the state along the way!

Graeme said...

Nick, your dislike of the "gender essentialist" nature of Tory discourse on the family makes me smile, because it reminds me of Aldous Huxley. Committees of nannies could raise children, if all that is required is that which you suggest. In any case, gender is probably here to stay, as is the pairbonding proclivity of gender-diverse heterosexual couples, so arguing about whether it is the chicken or the egg - while fun - isn't probably very productive.

What lesbian couples and single women (or, to be exact, their self-selected lobby group spokespeople) seem to have forgotten, demanding their "right" to receive insemination from the NHS, is that the child they will conceive has only half of their DNA. I contend children have a right to expect to be raised by their father as well as their mother.

The outcome for the generation of children raised in a father-free environment is all around us here in Hackney. It's not pretty. To have the state suggest, to promote even, a fatherless society, even if it would affect only a few dozen children per year, is the opposite of the signal which the state should be sending: if you want the support of the rest of us to have a child, taking money from my payslip for that express purpose, then get married to the putative father of your children first. There is too much evidence about the outcomes for fatherless children to make the case otherwise, I think.

nick said...

Graeme, I disagree with using laws to send signals altogether. I also don't think people have a right to demand IVF on the NHS, whether they are lesbian or not.

But I don't think you can compare the "fatherless" individuals in Hackney with what is being suggested here: two parents who because they are going to some effort, are going to be quite serious about bringing up their children properly. The problem in Hackney isn't so much the lack of fathers but rather the lack of anything representing moral guidance at all. It wouldn't make all that much difference whether these kids were brought up in mother-father families or lesbian couple families, so long as they were actually brought up with some form of family life.

Kris said...

this is whipped up hysteria al la the Mail re lesbians yet again.

yawn.

Think for a moment, does the mail propose to strip anonimity of sperm doners?

Do it and no one will donate.

Graeme Archer said...

Good points and food for thought, Nick -thanks. Even if it leaves me where I usually am on issues like this, hopelessly undecided (despite how I felt at 2.25pm today!).

Anonymous said...

The problem with here is that these sorts of issues arise once you have decided to allow IVF. My belief is that this is wrong as it immediately makes children into things which people can talk of having a 'right' to.

It also puts those who support IVF into the completely irrational position of having to consider and give weight to the rights of children who as yet do not exist, except in theory. How can someone who does not yet exist have rights?

And then, curiouser and curiouser, 'embryoes' who actually exist, can be deemed to have no rights at all so that they can be experimented on and destroyed.

And as for older children who are still in the womb, they have no right at all to life and can be aborted at will until they are around six months old.

If pre-existing children have rights then experimentation and abortion cannot be legitimate. If they have no rights that the current debate is nonsensical.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Iain. I don't know which way to go. The law is being driven for PC rules alone.

As everyone else has put their tuppence in I'll say mine.

Kids do better with fathers. Not just because its 2 parents. Kids do better with a father rather than a mother. Which no one believes but if you look at statistics where one parent dies the results are far better if the farther survives than the mother ( in terms of higher educational achievement, lower teen pregnancy, lower drug use, etc.)

All in all vote against it. It probably will help and even if it doesn't may delay the next loon initiative the PC brigade will vote for.

Kris said...

"The outcome for the generation of children raised in a father-free environment is all around us here in Hackney. It's not pretty."

I don't think the lesbians are responsible for this.

I should think most of the kids to which you refer were conceived the old fashioned way, with their deadbeat dads off at the first hint of responsibility.

Vienna Woods said...

As usual, the PC brigade spout off for the sake of it and even more usual, „their rights“ about what „they“ want are uppermost in their argument. If they spent some time seriously considering the future of what they ever propose, then some of them just might realize the problems they unleash on society as a whole. Of course when that time comes they will no doubt be supporting a new fad while their fatherless offspring are running riot around our towns and cities.

All the reports I have recently read highlight the fact that fatherless kids are the main problem amongst the mischief makers, vandals and the feral gangs that roam our towns and cities. I agree with Kris that today, these kids are mainly the product of broken marriages, but nobody has any idea how the kids of same sex partnerships will turn out. Having some years ago been on the management board of several ‘care homes’ in the UK, I have witnessed the Mum & Granny protégés on numerous occasions and I’m inclined to believe that whilst there is plenty of love in abundance, the kids shirk it ultimately and end up in care.

Our current home is directly adjacent to a large house which is run by the “Kolping” organization for residential upbringing of kids from all backgrounds, including the sexually abused, neglected and wayward kids under the age of 14. Of course we know most of the kids that stay for longer periods and many are quite seriously disturbed. However, the staff, comprising of a man and four women really do act as parents and there is very little trouble with the kids within this regime. I was speaking with one of the house-mothers just yesterday and she was quite adamant that a man was essential in their program with the girls as well as boys. She also said something that I had never particularly thought of before, that a child brought up by same sex parents could probably experience serious social problems during the early teen years and I could see her point!

Anonymous said...

Elevating the desires of the adults above the rights and needs of the child.

ian said...

Let's remember that the Cardinal is scarcely qualified to judge on childcare issues. He repeatedly covered up child sex abuse by one of his priests when he was a bishop in the most disgusting fashion. He is (presumably) childless himself and worships a sky fairy who had (if his book is to be believed) no earthly father. So he can shut up.

Cinnamon said...

The moment you're about to decide who is fit to breed you're on very sticky, slimy and deep ground.(see history of 1933-45, nuff said)

What is funny is that those who demand pre-conceptive abortion (aka IVF denial) by reasons of moral panic are the same people who bang on about the right to life.

Would be nice if they also granted that right to life to the kids of homosexuals, instead of claiming that those kids lives will be so horrible that they are not worthwhile living and better off dead -- ie, not born.

This line of argumentation is sort of valid with feral cats, but not human beings!!!

ordinary housewife said...

I do not see the need to mock the christian faith - funny how easy it is to do that but not other faiths -which I am sure might well be more vociferous against such a move! The Cardinal is but a man and a very flawed one in some respects.

I am a christian - I do not hold any prejudice against gay or lesbian couples -that is purely up to them and none of my business and I do not presume to know the mind of the creator on the subject.

However, to be properly balanced a child does need a mother and a father even if the father is at a distance, the child needs one to relate to.

My own life would have been miserable without my father. In addition it is important for the child to know its background -why do you think so many adults spend years searching through the records for their family history?

It is important in many ways and in my own family an adopted child went well 'off the rails' and almost sank beneath the surface because she could not find her real father - it was love from her adopted father that helped bring her back.

Some of the problems in schools are due to the lack of male teachers especially in primary schools.

Social experiments have always failed and left a mess.

To foster a child needing a home is one thing, but to deliberately create a child with the deliberate intention to deprive it of a father is another.

Parenthood isn't -wanting and having -its pain, worry, heartache, going without, as well as love, joy, and laughter.
A child isn't just for its cutie baby stage - its until death does us part.

Anonymous said...

Vienna Woods said...
As usual, the PC brigade spout off for the sake of it and even more usual, „their rights“ about what „they“ want are uppermost in their argument. If they spent some time seriously considering the future of what they ever propose, then some of them just might realize the problems they unleash on society as a whole.
----------------------------------

For me, the greatest concern is for the psychological welfare of the child.

Having first hand knowledge of the psychiatric care system in this country, I am aware that the vast majority of inpatients in psychiatric hospitals are there because they grew up in a disfunctional family unit.

What noone yet knows is whether being brought up by a homosexual couple (whether male or female) could be psychologically or emotionally damaging to a child.

I believe it is profoundly selfish of society to submit any child to a social experiment which could permanently scar his/her mental wellbeing, possibly for the rest of his/her life. Until we know for sure, we simply shouldn't be going there.

Anonymous said...

Aren't there enough children about already? Most of the world's problems stem from over-population in any case.

There's no answer to this question, nor need there be. It should just be avoided on grounds of taste.

ordinary housewife said...

This isn't verbal obscenity or offensive behaviour, its childrens' lives being debated and if it is one child it is as important and ten thousand. That might be disturbing, but distasteful?

Most of the world's problems stem from greed and envy.

War on another front will remove many of the remaining young people this country has! As it is some of the best have gone.

That was another can of worms opened without due thought to the logical conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Cinnamon said...
The moment you're about to decide who is fit to breed you're on very sticky, slimy and deep ground.(see history of 1933-45, nuff said)

What is funny is that those who demand pre-conceptive abortion (aka IVF denial) by reasons of moral panic are the same people who bang on about the right to life.

Would be nice if they also granted that right to life to the kids of homosexuals, instead of claiming that those kids lives will be so horrible that they are not worthwhile living and better off dead -- ie, not born.

This line of argumentation is sort of valid with feral cats, but not human beings!!!
------------------

No one should be deciding who is 'fit' to breed. Nature has decided already. Once you start moving beyond nature in this area e.g. IVF, there really is nothing to identify the point at which we should stop.

'Pre-conceptive abortion' is a nonsensical phrase.

No one is denying the right to life of any child. Those of us who oppose this are simply saying that we don't think that science should be used to create children. I am against all IVF.

"Would be nice if they also granted that right to life to the kids of homosexuals, instead of claiming that those kids lives will be so horrible that they are not worthwhile living and better off dead -- ie, not born." Excepting the words 'of homosexuals', this sums up why I am against abortion. I take it you must be too?

Yak40 said...

"Anonymous said...
Elevating the desires of the adults above the rights and needs of the child.
November 19, 2007 8:59 AM"

Perfectly put. Trophy kid desired.

Not remotely PC but I believe Lesbian couples have no "right" to children at all by whatever methods.

Mums the word said...

not sure what your point is - why do people think "lesbian mothers, no father" = "lack of fathers in souht london"? think its called a catigorical error.