CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Unrestricted IVF: Who Protects the Child?

Jul 23, 2000

The Infertility Treatment Authority recently put on a one-day public seminar in Melbourne entitled “The Welfare and Interests of Persons Born as a Result of Assisted Reproduction”. A number of speakers involved in or associated with the IVF industry were featured.

Unfortunately, little was actually spoken of concerning the rights and interests of the children, but much more was mentioned about the rights of adults, such as singles and especially homosexuals and lesbians.

Where the interests of the child were taken into account was mainly from speakers or audience members associated with groups like Origins, Advocacy and Kinship (OAK).

These groups, along with others worried about adoption-related issues, expressed concern about a child’s right to knowledge of their parents and/or biological backgrounds.

But little was said of a child’s fundamental rights – the right to be born and raised by a biological mother and a father, and the security and identity which that entails.

Instead, much of the discussion centred on the rights of adults to have access to IVF. The plea most commonly heard was for the supposed right of homosexuals and lesbians to have access to IVF.

Victorian law originally restricted IVF access to married couples, and later extended that to de facto couples. The push is now on to extend this to singles and same-sex couples.

This forum was a good example of how such a push is being made. Indeed, the public forum was as much about pushing the boundaries for access to IVF as it was about the interests of children.

One of the speakers, Margaret Coady of Melbourne University’s Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, spent much of her talk arguing the merits of granting IVF access to homosexuals and lesbians. When she did get around to the issue of the interests of the child, it was interesting to say the least.

She mentioned female circumcision as an example of where a culture might be wrong in issues that affect the well-being of a child. And in the same breath she gave another example. A child could also be harmed in situations where Catholic parents make their young children go to confession. Many Catholic parents would be surprised to learn of this kind of abuse.

Mr John Fogerty, former Family Court judge, also called for changes, suggesting that the Family Law Act be written to accommodate the move by single women and same-sex couples seeking fertility treatment.

Dr Ruth McNair, a Carlton GP, and co-convener of the Australian Lesbian Medical Association, argued at length for same-sex access to IVF. She argued that Federal legislation, such as the 1984 Sex Discrimination Act should override Victoria’s restrictive Infertility Treatment Act.

She mentioned the results of a “Lesbians on the Loose” survey which said 20 per cent of lesbians wanted children, and 20 to 22 per cent of lesbians already had children. (The survey did not say whether these children were the result of previous heterosexual relationships.)

All in all, this conference seemed to be another case of verbal engineering preceding social engineering. First change the terminology, then change the legislation. A good example was the way the term “family” was tossed about. Many of the speakers at this conference made the claim that ‘family’ is a changing concept, and that it is wrong to say that same-sex couples are not families.

True, many people are seeking to redefine the family. But one wonders where it will stop. The claim is often made that a family is any group in a loving environment or sharing a common purpose.

But a group of bank robbers could qualify under this definition. The point is, a family is quite simply defined: any group of people united by blood, marriage or adoption. Other types of relationships are just that – relationships. Such groups want the benefits of family life without the responsibilities.

Other examples of verbal gymnastics and logical fallacies were common. Dr McNair argued that at the moment, lesbians who use self-insemination methods are being discriminated against and are subject to health risks. Because lesbians are denied IVF access, she argued, they are not getting proper medical screening.

It is true that a person who breaks the law concerning IVF may be taking health risks, but this is true of most people who seek to break the law.

A drug addict who takes illicit drugs is also running a health risk (contaminated needles, etc.). A robber seeking to break into a building faces the risk of being cut by broken glass or falling off the roof. But the answer to this is to stop breaking the law, not to make law-breaking safer.

Dr McNair also argued, as did many on the day, that it was unfair to deny singles and homosexuals access to IVF, that their rights were being violated by such restrictions. But this is Orwellian language. Any couple which seeks to live outside of the means nature provided to have children cannot talk about rights being denied, any more than I can talk about the right to be ten feet tall.

The media, often sympathetic to the anti-family cause, was quick to pick up on these calls for law reform. And politicians such as Rob Hulls, Victoria’s Attorney General, have been eager to promote the homosexual agenda. What these people and others overlook is the reason why most societies in the past have given special recognition to marriage and family.

They knew that strong families made for strong societies, and as such granted benefits to married couples and children not accorded to other relationships and lifestyles. By successively whittling away the benefits granted to the institutions of marriage and family, modern societies are progressively asking for, and are getting, trouble.

This grand experiment in social engineering is simply aided and abetted by conferences like the one described. And, as is so often the case, the welfare and well-being of children are the last considerations heard.

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