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Lesbians and male role models

In Britain, the Conservative Party has challenged the government to block lesbian couples from receiving IVF treatment unless they can provide a ‘male role model’ for their child. This is part of a proposed amendment to the human fertilisation and embryology bill which is currently before the parliament. Such a change would be a very bad idea.

To begin with, even if it were a good idea to enforce male role models for the children of lesbian couples, the proposed changes to the legislation will not bring this about. The legislation would govern what happens at the time the couple apply for IVF. Presumably a prospective lesbian couple would need to claim that there was such a potential role model, or to have the potential role model sign a declaration. However, what happens when five years on the male role model decides to move to a different city, or ceases being on good terms with the couple? The government cannot retract the IVF treatment and nor can it force a person to be a role model. Thus any such legislation will be easy to circumvent by merely professing a desire at the time.

More troubling, however, is the target of the proposal. The Conservative Party think that it is beneficial for a child to have a strong male role model, and presumably to have a strong female role model too (if they believe both are important, then they are not being sexist). This may well be true. Moreover, as IVF is an expensive and scarce resource, it may make some sense to ration it out to where it will do the most good. However this proposal is a very poor attempt at doing so.

There are very many things that would improve the life of a child, most notably being brought up in a stable and loving environment. This would suggest a policy of prohibiting IVF to people with criminal records or with some other evidence that they would make bad parents, rather than focusing on lesbians. Why choose a group who have suffered much legal and social discrimination as those who must miss out, when you could choose a group who are more clearly unsuitable and who bear the responsibility for this? I am not suggesting that we *should* discriminate against people with criminal records when it comes to IVF treatment — indeed I think this would be socially and politically unacceptable — what I am saying is that enacting new laws to discriminate against lesbians makes even less sense.

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