Government votes against IVF babies need for father

 In the third round of voting on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, the government last night rejected laws requiring clinics to consider the need for a 'father and mother' before allowing women to undergo IVF treatment. Catholic MP Iain Duncan Smith, led the cross-party bid, saying the absence of a father had a 'detrimental effect' on a child. The plan was defeated by 292 votes to 217. MPs also rejected a proposal to ensure there is a 'father or a male role model' before fertility treatment, by 290 votes to 222. Up to now, IVF clinics have been required to consider the welfare of any child born through IVF. That welfare was seen to include the need for a father. The government now wants the focus instead on 'supportive parenting'. In his arguments, Mr Duncan Smith said: "On the whole the absence of fathers generally has a detrimental effect on a child, and it's the vast majority that are going to be a positive influence - if they are connected to that family." He said the influence of a father figure was as important for daughters as it was for sons. "It is more often from the father that those young girls learn about empathetic, non-conditional love - that it's possible to have a relationship that doesn't have to involve sex," he said. Labour ex-minister George Howarth asked if he accepted that there were bad fathers who can "have a bad influence in some circumstances" - to which Mr Duncan Smith said he did. Lib Dem science spokesman Evan Harris asked: "Do you consider lesbian couples to be broken families? And if you do, what evidence to you have that the children of those families are going off the rails?" Mr Duncan Smith said he did not consider them broken families. "I hope, like everybody else, we would want any such relationship to prosper and the child would benefit." He said he did not know of any gay or lesbian couples who had been refused treatment under the current rules. It's the quality of the parenting that makes the most difference, not the gender of the parents as such. But Labour's Emily Thornberry said the Birmingham Women's Hospital insisted couples needed to be in a heterosexual relationship for two years. "That's direct discrimination against lesbian couples and against single women," she said. Tory shadow health minister Mark Simmonds said Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority guidelines were not allowed to refuse treatment on the basis of sexual discrimination. We should not, out of a misguided concept of equality or fairness, pretend that there is an automatic right for anyone to have a child, regardless of sex Labour's Geraldine Smith, who backed Mr Duncan Smith's position, said: "It's nonsense to suggest that we shouldn't take into account the need for a father. "We are not suggesting that single women or lesbians do not have IVF treatment - the only thing we're saying is there's a father figure somewhere. "It's just pure common sense." Tory veteran Sir Patrick Cormack said: "A child that is deliberately brought into the world with no desire that there should be a man or a woman who is the parent is brought in with a disadvantage." ' However, Health Minister Dawn Primarolo insisted that the legislation "should be for all people that seek treatment, whether in a same sex couple, single women or heterosexual couples". "It's clear that if the need for a father was retained, the legislation would place additional burdens on single women and same sex female couples. "There is no evidence or suggestion to say that these women do not make good parents - that these women somehow make bad parents and therefore should be required to do additional steps." She said the important issue was the "welfare of the child". "It's the quality of the parenting that makes the most difference, not the gender of the parents as such." Yesterday MPs voted against a ban on hybrid human animal embryos. A bid to ban 'saviour siblings - babies selected to provide genetic material for seriously ill relatives -was also defeated. See also: 20 May 2008 Embryology Bill: 'we have crossed a dangerous threshold' Source: Agencies

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