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Sally Roberts

Once again an interesting and thoughtful article, Graeme! As a woman who was not lucky enough to have children (though I've never understood the utterly biological longing which compels some women to do ANYTHING to have a baby!)I find the idea of fatherless families totally alien and somewhat repugnant. It is using a child as a designer accessory - this season's "must have"! Completely selfish.
I adored my father though I had a difficult and at times stormy relationship with him. I cannot imagine what life would have been like had he never been there at all! I would certainly have missed the love and knowledge of classical music and the traditions of our Jewish faith and culture which he passed on to me.

Tony Makara

Rather like the abortion issue, feminists try to convince the public that this is an argument about women's autonomy, but it is not. It is an argument about a child's life. When we come into the world we don't appear like some product off a factory production line, we have a past, and a past that goes back millions of years.

Every person reading this has relations who lived in the time of Shakespeare, in the time of Julius Caesar, and so on going right back to the beginnings of humanity. So we are not a new product, we have a past and as those with hereditary disease know all too well we have a past that lives inside of each one of us today.

I am my father, my mother, my grandparents, my great-grandparents and so on. I am them. I come from them, I am made up from each them. They all live inside of me and inside of my son. So for feminists to argue that rootless babies should be doled out to single women and lesbian couples as a kind of fashion accessory to legitimize their lifestyle is obscene. Any illegitimate child still has a chance of re-tracing its history, but for the IVF baby that will be impossible.


I'm going to throw in the grenade here but why should IVF be available to anyone? The money could - and should - be better spent on cancer treatments, care of the elderly, you name it. Women think they can have it all - they can't (and neither can men). You have to - and should - make choices in your life, about your career, marriage, kids, you name it. And you are dealt a hand with regard to your health. Some people can conceive and some can't, like some people have better health than others (for no apparent reason). Simple as that. (From a childless woman who chose career over children).

Patsy Sergeant

Statistics, I am sure, would show that children are happier in same sex families than in care, however, I do wonder if those children will grow up at all cognisant of heterosexual relationships? Yes, I am well aware that a happy same sex relationship is surely better than the hell, a fair number of children suffer at the moment at the hands of their biological parents. And, yes a very large number of children are being brought up in single parent families now, but a similar comment applies to them - how on earth can they be expected to know what a stable heterosexual relationship is like, especially as quite a number of single women have a succession of boyfriends (they are probably looking for Mr. Right still), passing through their lives, with all the disruption that that involves.

I quite agree with Sally about the obssession that some women seem to have about it being their RIGHT to have a child. What they mean if one thinks about it is to recreate their own genes, because it is perfectly possible to adopt a baby, which is also helping society!

Globally speaking it is LESS children that are needed, a problem that people have been trying to tackle for many years.

Tony Makara

"I do wonder if those children will grow up at all cognisant of heterosexual relationships?"

Patsy Sergeant, I don't think sexual preference is something that we learn. It is something much deeper than sex and actually is more to do with attraction itself. I can certainly remember being a boy at primary school and thinking that certain girls were very pretty and although at that age there could have been no possible sexual attraction I certainly felt attracted to them and had crushes on them. So I think that it is something ingrained within all of us even though we don't understand properly how it works. I think a lesbian is just that way, and from birth too, the sexual side develops with puberty but the predisposition, the inclination, is there from day one.

Of course there are thrill-seekers who indulge in same-sex scenarios but I don't class them as 'Proper' lesbians or homosexuals. So I don't believe its possible to brainwash someone into being a lesbian through a lesbian lifestyle, much in the same way that a hetrosexual couple with a lesbian daughter could brainwash her into being a hetrosexual.


What's happened to society?

-- "I want a baby"
-- "OK, no problem, we can make one of those for you"

-- "I don't want a baby, get rid of it"
-- "OK - we've got a pill for that"

When did we decide to allow human life to become worth as little as any other trinket bought in a supermarket?

Another great article, Graeme, but can we have a little less maths please?

Keith (only educated to CSE level)

Patsy Sergeant

Tony Makara - Here is another aspect for you! Sometimes women experience a violent marriage or some other type of bruising heterosexual relationship, and perhaps as a reaction to it get involved in a lesbian relationship. This might become permanent, but equally it can be 'passing' and the same woman will go back to heterosexual relationships when they are no longer 'afraid'.

Sean Fear

Very well put, Graeme. You are quite correct to argue that the situation of adoption is different to that where you quite deliberately bring a child into existence with the intention that it should not have a father.


Graeme, thanks for putting my confused reactions into coherent form.

The gay son of old friends of mine now lives in the US with his partner (they're now married), and has adopted a child. They were introduced to the pregnant woman who could not keep the baby, so the background is properly (and legally) established.

The child is now in a completely loving and stable environment, the grandparents (after taking some time, naturally, to cope with this very modern situation) now regard themselves as 'real' grandparents and carry round photos of Ben, showing them off proudly.

So, a child has been rescued from misery and a couple have been given an opportunity to cement their partnership in a way that pleases them.

Very unlike the situation of ordering a baby in an 'over the counter' sort of way, and treating it as a commodity.

Ben L

I think you're right, and feel very strongly that gay couples can make excellent parents, and should be considered as potential adoptive families.

I also agree that no-one has an automatic right to have children.

I'm slightly troubled, though, by whether or not lesbian couples should be entitled to IVF treatment.

After all, there has to be a biological father involved in fertilising the eggs, and I think it only right that that father has a role in the life of any child that is subsequently born. But to say that it's perfectly okay to use a man's sperm to fertilise an egg, and then give that man no further role in his child's life is an appalling attitude - it's about the commodification of men as well as of children.

For the same reasons, I'd be unhappy to see single women (who have no intention of involving a father in the child's life) qualifying for IVF.

On the other hand, what about this for a scenario? Two lesbian women, desperate for a child. One father, who is not only willing to donate his sperm but take an active role in the child's life. All paid for privately, and at no cost to the taxpayer.

Would that be so terrible? It's a more attractive option than the thousands of kids born into poverty with absent fathers. And it's on children like those that the tendency to undermine the importance of fatherhood has had the most appalling effects.

Tony Makara

Patsy Sergeant, yes, good point. Its certainly possible that people get involved in a certain lifestyle as a result of negative experiences. The human psyche is very complicated and often the dynamic behind such situations is a reaction/rebellion.

I always feel it is difficult for a hetrosexual like myself to understand the rational behind lesbianism and homosexuality. We just can't understand it and because we don't understand it we often develop prejudices, even though we don't realise that we are doing so. I think that is true for most people. I think it is unfortunate that homosexuals have been wildly caricatured by people like John Inman and Grahame Norton because the ludicrous sex-obsessed image they have portrayed re-enforces all manner of negative sterotypes.

The whole IVF debate isn't about sexual culture, or even about a woman's autonomy, it is about the child, and that child having an identity, a past, a sense of belonging. It seems the child's needs and future life always stand outside of the argument, that is wrong, the IVF argument is about the child, that is where the debate should be centred.

Matt Wright

A very human message with which I have an great deal of sympathy,

Graeme Archer

I'm sorry that I'm such a poor writer that I tend to see everything through the prism of my sexuality. I mentioned gay adoption almost in passing, because it occurred to me, when I was thinking about my reaction against permitting IVF to occur in the absence of a father, that perhaps I was being inconsistent. I don't think I am, for the reasons set out above, though I understand if others disagree. But the point I was really making is that it's simply wrong to willfully create a child if he or she won't have the chance to be raised by a mother and father - and the absence of fathers, so often, is what troubles me the most. What about if single men were given IVF to have children, in the absence of anything other than a paid-for surrogate mother? I imagine this concept would strike people as intrinsically wrong. I feel as strongly that the willful absence of a father is just as wrong. So (Ben L) I could not find it in me to celebrate the situation you describe, however loving the lesbian couple and involved the sperm-donating male might be.

Patsy and Tony -- which came first, the chicken or the egg? We're as likely to answer that as we are to find the "rationale" (strange word, Tony) for homosexual inclination. FWIW, I find Patsy's scenario, of people being "scared off" heterosexuality because of a bad relationship, frankly unbelievable. Most of us have had sh*t relationships! It doesn't tend to trigger a reversal of gender attraction! I still think my evolutionary hypothesis has a stronger rational (but maybe I would say that, wouldn't I).

Tony Makara

Graeme Archer, by 'rationale' I mean the reasons why it occurs. There is a clear biological basis and drive for hetrosexuality and that is reproduction. Homosexuals and lesbians lack the biological drive to turn towards the opposite sex and turn towards their own sex, why is this?, what is the rationale for this. If the entire human race were homosexual or lesbian the human race would die out. The natural drive for survival as a species is manifest in hetrosexuality. Homosexuality and lesbianism are, on the biological level, self-destructive drives in terms of the continuation of the species. So why do homosexuals and lesbians lack the drive to reproduce themselves?

Of course individuals do not see this larger picture, they see their own lives, their own feelings, their own existence. However as I pointed out earlier, we are not individuals isolated in time, we are part of a greater continuum. We have existed for millions of years because the ancestors in our family line had the drive to reproduce with the opposite sex. So why do homosexuals and lesbians lack this natural drive, this impulse to survival?

I don't claim to understand why people are homosexual or lesbian, but they are, and I accept that they are that way from birth. What I find interesting is why? What is the reason/rationale for that? To understand this people need to step back from their own lives, their own sexuality, and look at the wider biological picture.

martin sewell

As a family lawyer who has acted for gay adopters and an Anglican Lay Reader can I say that I have looked at part of this problem from both a practical and philosophical viewpoint. I think Graeme is right to separate the placing of a child who exists now from the issue of creating a new child. I have seen circumstances where the placement of an individual child with a same sex couple was absolutely the best thing for that child in those circumstances.
That is not the same as saying that ( like it or not) the placement of some children in such a home as a matter of inflexible policy
should always be the case. I believe that we need to return to the proper use of the word "discriminate". We should be sensitively discriminating in the interests of each child individually. Some children should be so placed, however as a general
(though not inflexible) bias, most children ought to have the chance to be brought up in a heterosexual household.

On the issue of the origins of homosexuality I have no expertise. I do worry about "political" stances in such an area, and I was challenged by one of my favourite US columnists Ann Coulter when she challenged liberals with the question why they believe that paedophiles can have their sexuality changed ( eg to be given parole), but not homosexuals. I do not of course equate the two in a moral or "risk" sense. It is however an interesting question to which I have no very firm conclusion although I wish I did.

Graeme  Archer

Martin, thank you for your kind and very informed comments. It's good to know that what I suspected - *sometimes* it can make sense for a child to be placed with a gay family, but only *sometimes* and only after careful - discriminating, to use the word positively, as you do - consideration has been made about the needs of the child and the fitness of the adopters. And that you agree this is quite a different matter to the creation of children via IVF to meet the needs of putative parents.

As to why homosexuality happens - I am happy to think that discussions about that remain a parlour game - in the sense that I don't believe we'll ever know. Some gay people strike me as likely to have been affected by neonatal developmental changes; others do not. FWIW - and it's not worth much, being an n of 1! - I no more feel that I was "born" gay (because I became aware of my difference at the time of life we *all* become aware of sex, not earlier!) than I feel that I chose, consciously, to find men rather than women sexually desirable (because the realisation dawned on me as bluntly as sexual desire dawns on anyone - I didn't sit outside myself and think 'men or women? Hmm, let me see..'). Any neonatal developmental changes which *might* lead to the phenotype of male homosexuality *might* be related to an entirely different physiological process; and it *might* then require psychological developmental differences on top of that, in order to manifest itself as a gay man. Anyway while I find it a fascinating discussion I'm sure others are bored rigid by it!

I'll continue to take comfort from my evolutionary hypothesis - if people like Qaradawi had his way, and all gay men were executed tomorrow, within a generation we would have produced another set of gay people. So it seems to me that there's some tribal 'need' to have adults who are basically psychologically & physically healthy, but who don't have the procreative urges of their heterosexual peers. Everyone needs to love. If you wanted to design a small proportion of people who fitted that bill, you'd likely come up with homosexuality as a way of delivering it.

Cllr Alexa Michael

I agree with the poster who said why should anybody be entitled to IVF at all. The NHS is there to heal the genuinely sick - money should not be spent on 'lifestyle' services. Beng unable to have a baby is not an illness. I look on IVF as a complete waste of money, especially when there are around 200,000 abortions taking place every year.

Whatever happened to adoption? In every case, the needs and welfare of the child must come first. Every child deserves a loving home, and this can best be provided by two mixed-sex married individuals. The statistics bear this out.

Let's face it, children do hate to be different and I think that those who are brought up by two men or two women will be at a disadvantage, and will be teased (or worse) at school. If a child is conceived using donor sperm, what do the two 'mothers' tell him or her when she or he asks who the father is?

Call me terribly old-fashioned, but we tinker with nature in this way at our peril!


Popped over from Twitter, because this is not a discussion that can be had in 120 characters plus @names. First off, I really like your point that it takes a village to raise children. I completely agree with you that children benefit from a wide circle of support, and I like the idea that an optimal mix should include both men and women. (Incidentally, I think there should be more male nursery nurses and primary teachers - the best nursery nurse my daughter ever had was a man. But I digress.) I'm a bit suspicious of evo psych arguments, but have no better alternative to offer.

However, I wonder whether the basic statistical issue here isn't really a measurement problem. I am not familiar with the literature on gay and heterosexual parenting, but if I understood your argument correctly, the main point is that children should have a close, intimate bond with at least one male person and at least one female person. But how to operationalise this in a study? That is the problem.

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