IVF Father Figure Clause Is To Go

The government is to abolish the requirement for fertility clinics to consider the need for a father when deciding whether to offer treatment. It means clinics will no longer be able to deny treatment to lesbians and single mothers out of hand. A white paper outlining plans for a major overhaul of the law on assisted human reproduction and embryo research is being published.

It follows a public consultation exercise on the current law. Ministers felt the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 needed to be updated as science has moved on significantly in the last 16 years.

Launching the white paper, Health Minister Caroline Flint said: “The current law, which has served us well, is in need of revision. Technology has changed, and so have attitudes.”

Couples are also to be banned from choosing the sex of their baby for non-medical reasons. The proposed change has been criticised in some quarters.

Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: “This paper takes on board, almost carte blanche, the libertarian recommendations of the science and technology select committee, with political correctness the highest priority and welfare of children the lowest. We can only hope that Parliament will wisely reject the absurd proposal to do away with the child’s need for a father.”

Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield and secretary of the British Fertility Society, said: “Whilst the current laws have served us very well during the early days of IVF and associated treatments, society has changed and the concerns of today are not the same as they were 16 years ago when the current laws were drafted.

“Most Assisted Conception Treatment is now relatively routine and there are strong arguments that some of its regulation could now be relaxed whist still retaining public confidence.”