Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dark Angel*, Here We Come

New fertility laws say dads not needed to make babies
17.05.07
This is London magazine, from the Evening Standard

A major relaxation of IVF rules was announced by ministers today.

The changes will make it easier for single people and lesbians to receive fertility treatment on the NHS.

The move, which is part of a shake-up of laws on the use of human tissues, will also allow the creation of "Frankenstein" embryos - human and animal cells mixed together - for medical research. [British scientists have applied for permission to produce embryos that would be 99.9 per cent human and 0.1 per cent animal].

Under current laws, fertility clinics have to consider the baby's need for a father before providing treatment. But today's draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill says this is no longer necessary.

The draft legislation bans couples from choosing the gender of their child. It also tightens the law on screening embryos for diseases, a subject of heated ethical debate as it could lead to parents aborting potentially unhealthy babies and see insurance companies refusing people with a genetic illness. [...]

Other measures in the draft legislation include:

• Banning couples from choosing the gender of their baby.

• Couples in same sex civil partnerships should have equal rights as parents in traditional marriages.

• The regulation of internet sperm services.

• Tightening of laws on screening embryos for genetic diseases.

• Allow donor conceived children to find out if they have donor conceived siblings.

The Government is also recommending a change to the rules over the use of frozen sperm and the issue of withdrawal of consent.


Via Robert Roy Britt at the LiveScience blog.

Allowing single gals to get fertility treatments is good, regulating "internet sperm services", (whatever those might be), sounds like a really good idea, and mixing human and other animal (or even plant) genes is inevitable.

Allowing donor-conceived children to find out if they have donor-conceived siblings seems like it'll do more harm than good. Who cares if your biological father (or mother), whom you've never known, is also the father of other children ?
Maybe it's to make it easy to find potential tissue donors, should the need arise.

Trying to bar couples from choosing their child's gender, when using IVF, or from choosing not to bear defective children, is ludicrous. Is it the intention of the NHS to promote foreign abortions ?


* A short-lived post-apocalyptic science-fiction television show, starring Jessica Alba as a genetically-modified, part-big-cat super-soldier who rebels. I loved the opening sequence - a shabby Seattle, Alba standing on a dark Space Needle, dressed in black spandex & leather...

28 Comments:

Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It is cruel to deliberately bring a child into the world without a father.

May 19, 2007 11:19 AM  
Blogger monix said...

A first - I agree with Harry!

May 19, 2007 11:33 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

There's a difference between "less than ideal" and "cruel".

Further, very very few children are born into "ideal" situations, and fewer yet grow to maturity under unbroken "ideal" circumstances.

Is it cruel for people who earn less than their community's median income to bring children into the world ?

How about for those of certain minority races, knowing that their kids will face discrimination and slightly-reduced opportunity ?

May 19, 2007 12:40 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Is it cruel for people who earn less than their community's median income to bring children into the world ?

No

How about for those of certain minority races, knowing that their kids will face discrimination and slightly-reduced opportunity ?

No

As for intentionally bringing a child into a same sex family, I can't say whether it is cruel or not. It is, as you say, not ideal, but someone has to bring children into the world, and if male-female pairs aren't willing then I don't see why others should be prevented from doing so. If it is a matter of the child being born into a same sex couple or not being born at all, then I'm in favor of it being born.

May 19, 2007 1:17 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Some day, women will be able to clone themselves directly, make the title of the article ("New fertility laws say dads not needed to make babies ") completely true instead of just partially.

The ability of heterosexual couples to raise children runs from hideously incompetent to stellar. Without further strong evidence, I have to assume that's true for other parenting configurations as well.

I have to admit discomfort with the idea, but my discomfort doesn't make it objectively (or even subjectively) cruel or wrong.

May 19, 2007 1:39 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

This isn't about the adults. It's about the children.

Each child is entitled to a father.

If he or she doesn't get one, that's a tragedy, whatever the reason.

Deliberately creating tragedies ought to be outside the boundaries of civilized behavior.

May 19, 2007 3:34 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Further, very very few children are born into "ideal" situations.

No, most are. The problem in many cases is that after the demands of family, necessity and duty set in, one of the parents, for various good and not-so-good reasons, no longer believes there is such a thing as an "ideal" or is willing to commit to it. Sometimes both parents, but that is rare and it is usually one. So although the start is promising, self-focus takes over, sometimes understandably, sometimes not. Damn that Plato!

Well said, Harry. I have no idea how you get there from where you are, but well said anyway.

May 19, 2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Saying that being born without a father is a "tragedy" debases the import of the word.

Peter:

I meant globally, compared to the "lucky uterus" winners that get born in the States.

May 19, 2007 10:19 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Then why do we weep about orphans?

I don't see any need to justify my view beyond mere practicality, but I can.

I can derive my views from Darwin and Dawkins, but more to the point there is the argument from diversity.

If diversity is, of itself, the greatest good, as the progressives think, then it is better for a child to be raised by a man and woman than by two women.

I expect the feminists to choke on that one.

May 20, 2007 12:20 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Then why do we weep about orphans?

No father = orphan ?
C'mon now.

...it is better for a child to be raised by a man and woman than by two women.

Absolutely.

The question is, is being raised by one or two women, without a father, such a horrific fate that we should ban the practice ?

And if so, then what do we do about those children born to a hetero couple, but who lose their father in early childhood, for whatever reason ?

I don't know what you've seen that leads you to your unyielding stance, but I could introduce you to some people who never had a father, and they turned out OK. (Not necessarily better than OK, but OK isn't a tragedy, as I understand the word).

May 20, 2007 12:43 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

As for intentionally bringing a child into a same sex family, I can't say whether it is cruel or not.

I read an article recently (sorry, can't remember enough text to google it) that made a pretty convincing case that the composition of parents does not harm the prospects of a child in any way whatsoever.

With one qualification: at least one of the parents is a woman.

That said, I'm with Harry on this. If you aren't willing to play the game, you shouldn't get the prize.

May 20, 2007 4:08 AM  
Blogger monix said...

The new anti-discrimination laws in Britain give male same-sex couples adoption rights and, presumably, parental rights via surrogacy.

I'm totally with Harry on this issue. Losing a parent, even having an absentee parent, is not the same as intentionally creating a child to be brought up in a same-sex environment. The adults cry out for their rights but children, it seems, have none.

May 20, 2007 5:16 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

If you aren't willing to play the game, you shouldn't get the prize.

That's the exact opposite of what you've passionately written about gay marriage.

Losing a parent, even having an absentee parent, is not the same as intentionally creating a child to be brought up in a same-sex environment.

We don't consider it to be abusive to get pregnant from a one-night stand. (Stupid, but not child abuse). Children have the right to be physically cared for, and it's nice if they get love - but we can't mandate the latter, even though it's more critical than proper clothing or good housing.

So again, while two loving middle-class parents of differing genders is ideal, there are plenty of kids in situations that fall short. Why should we demand that IVF patients measure up to a standard that all human societies fail to meet ?

May 20, 2007 10:00 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'We don't consider it to be abusive to get pregnant from a one-night stand.'

We should and I do.

Yes, no father=orphan. Do you read local newspaper stories about GIs killed in Iraq or Afghanistan who have young children? Real weepers.

Even during WWII, when young male bodies were at a premium, the country put off as long as it could drafting fathers.

'Why should we demand that IVF patients measure up to a standard that all human societies fail to meet?'

Why do we expect you to keep paying taxes even though millions of other people evade them?

May 20, 2007 11:02 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Yes, no father=orphan.

I find your default opinion of mothers to be unpleasant and eccentric.

'We don't consider it to be abusive to get pregnant from a one-night stand.'

We should and I do.

So the State should take infants away from unwed mothers ?

Why do we expect you to keep paying taxes even though millions of other people evade them?

Citizens paying taxes is a standard met by successful societies worldwide, and tax-evaders are criminals.

Using your analogy, we'd be saying that IVF patients should not take all of the deductions legally allowed to them, although every other taxpayer does so.

May 20, 2007 6:53 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Who said anything about taking children away? Not me.

We should start disapproving of destructive behavior.

An example from a few years ago, in interview on NPR with a woman who had no interest in being married or having a father for her two kids around.

She was on welfare. Her justification: 'I'm a great mother, that's what I do.'

This was presented without comment. The correct response from the interviewer would have been, 'How can you be a great mother if you deprive children of their fathers?'

May 20, 2007 7:43 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Who said anything about taking children away? Not me.

Then it's not abuse, eh ?
Just not what you think of as "optimal parenting".

We should start disapproving of destructive behavior.

I agree. What we're arguing over is whether this behavior is destructive.

The correct response from the interviewer would have been, 'How can you be a great mother if you deprive children of their fathers?'

My "correct response" would have been, "How can you be a great mother if you can't teach your children self-sufficiency ?"

Being a child-raising person who doesn't work for pay, but who is partnered with someone who does work, falls under my definition of "self-supporting".

May 20, 2007 8:21 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

There you go again, thinking about the adults.

All things equal, I'd have cheerfully given the mom the strappado, but all things aren't equal.

May 20, 2007 11:25 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

One can't seriously think about children without thinking about the adults, because children don't get fed & raised in a vacuum.

May 21, 2007 2:06 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Good-oh, Harry. If you want to see the fine art of couching the interests of the children in language consistent with the parents' desires, you should get yourself assigned to cover a typical custody trial. Chances are good you may notice the following:

A)You will hear repeatedly that the best interests of the children are paramount. In fact, so paramount that all the rules of evidence and procedure are ignored and the most outrageous hearsay and other untestable evidence are routinely allowed;

B)The only think that is important is the self-esteem of the children that is presumed to spike with each minute in the presence of the parent. Friends, grandparents, neighbours, etc. are largely irrelevant. Whether the parent is paying for swim lessons, schlepping them to the ski hill or enforcing homework and bedtime is secondary. Although most parents in intact families note their teenagers and tweens seem to be in a multi-year campaign to spend as little time as possible with their parents, not so the child of separated parents, who just wants to emote with Mom and Dad endlessly.

C) The wishes of the child, formerly only of importance for teens, is now relevant even in some cases as young as first-grade. But even for the older ones, no one ever sees the child, it being thought the height of cruelty for them to appear or even meet with the judge and tell him/her what they want. Enter the caring professions and children's lawyers, who conduct exhaustive, expensive inquiries into what the kids want. Although most kids resist and deeply resent this kind of professional intervention, these particular kids are just presumed to welcome it and to give them their complete, unreserved trust and frankness.

D) The child is always scarred, innocent and fragile. That he may actually be out of control and taking full advantage of his parents' fears by playing them like violins is an outrageous suggestion befitting only greedy, uncaring lawyers.

E) The sex lives of the parents are a no-go area. Unless he is actually on the child abuse register, Mom's new live-in boyfriend and she are inevitably described as a "stable, long-term realtionship", even after just a few months. Trying to introduce hard statistical evidence that step-fathers can be dangerous is very bad form, because everyone knows step-moms are less so and that is hardly fair to Mom.

F)Child support (and alimony)can vary with custodial arrangements, but do you think anyone would have the temerity to even suggest the parents may be motivated by financial gain. Perish the thought!!

Oro has a point, though. You can't expect separated parents to live like selfless saints in a no-fault system. The problem is we don't really, but we talk as if we do and the whole system reeks with distortion and hypocrisy as a result.

May 21, 2007 3:12 AM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

Child rearing is tough enough without asking for trouble by permitting what is in this new law.

@40% of people shouldn't be having kids any way. All they do is repeat their dysfunctional ways on to innocent children born to them. (especially the criminal segments of the population) All bringing more of the same to a society.

Nor should most of the divorced feel they have the right to go out so easily and to bring more kids into the world to screw their lives up too.


and

People who are below the median income should not be permitted to have kids. As if logic shouldn't be applied to try to logically end some social ills.

May 21, 2007 9:45 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Peter, you should write a book.

I'm serious.

There should be one additional chapter: what happens when one parent goes insane.

My one personal encounter with custody fights was many years ago, when my best friend's wife began exhibiting the paranoid schizophrenia that, it turned out, ran in her family.

The courts didn't deal with that one well, but I don't know that anybody could have.

Point for Oro: his kids ended up with the crazy mom but they turned out pretty well.

May 21, 2007 10:38 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

That's the exact opposite of what you've passionately written about gay marriage.

That is a non-sequitor.

Marriage != parenthood; my arguments have noted the distinction.

May 21, 2007 1:28 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Skipper:

Gay marriage isn't "playing the game", it's changing the rules.

If we can change the rules for marriage, why not with childrearing ?

We should note that in the Western tradition, the rules of both marriage and childrearing have been changed dozens of times over the past 4,000 years.

Alexandra:

Man you're tough.

While I agree that there are plenty of people who ought not have kids, in America it's rarely possible to do anything about it beforehand, and not often after, either.

May 22, 2007 1:23 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Oro:

Gay marriage isn't "playing the game", it's changing the rules.

If we can change the rules for marriage, why not with childrearing?


That gays are excluded says everything about the proclivity of religion to demonize groups based upon nothing more than On Account of Because.

The latter is already a done deal: in many, if not most, states, gay couples obtain children by any number of means.

They just can't be married when they do it.

May 23, 2007 6:36 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

gay couples obtain children by any number of means.

I think mainly through heterosexual relationships.

Any number?

May 24, 2007 2:03 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Adoption and artificial insemination and adoption and artificial insemination and artificial insemination and adoption and artificial insemination and adoption and artificial insemination and adoption etc.

Just like I said: any number.

May 24, 2007 7:00 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

At least as far as my position goes, adoption and artificial insemination are not equivalent.

Not usually, anyway.

Providing a parent or two to a child with one or none is, generally, to be admired. Creating a child without a mother and/or a father is not.

May 24, 2007 9:27 PM  

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