27 Sep 2007

Labelling Our Children - Proposals from the Joint Committee on the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill

The Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill is intended to revise the law on assisted reproduction and embryology and to establish the Regulatory authority for Tissue and Embryos (RATE). The Joint Committee on the draft Bill published its report on 1 August 2007 and there is a further short period of consultation followed by the parliamentary stages of the Bill.

There are some welcoming proposals in the draft bill such as the right of same sex couples to use the fast track adoption like procedure in fertility law to become parents of a child born by surrogacy. There is also a proposal in the draft bill to remove the requirement from the law on fertility treatment that it is necessary to take into account ‘the child’s need for a father’. As we know many clinics already offer services to single women and same sex couples and this will clarify the law and will not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

However the joint committee is recommending that the clause be amended to introduce a requirement to consider the need of a child for a second parent. This blatantly does discriminate and stigmatise single parents, the majority of whom are of course women. The committee further recommends that this be put to a free vote in both Houses of Parliament.

The Joint Committee have further recommended that as a matter of urgency the Government should consider the fact of donor conception being registered on a person’s birth certificate. The committee stated that this would “create an incentive for the parent(s) to tell the child of the fact of his or her donor conception and would go some way to address the value of knowledge of genetic history for medical purposes”. The joint committee continued that unlike children “born through natural conception, assisted conception…. involves the authorities and we are deeply concerned about the idea that the authorities may be colluding in a deception.” Not only does this infer that the parent(s) of children born as a result of donor conception may deliberately deceive their children, such a move may deter people from accessing fertility services and could also stigmatise children and breach their privacy.

This issue will be debated at UNISON's LGBT Conference and is obviously of grave concern and if you read this I would ask that you raise it to anyone you know might be interested.

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