MPs vote to remove need for father in IVF treatment

21 MAY 2008

Last night MPs voted to remove the requirement that fertility clinics consider the need for a father and mother" before allowing women to seek IVF treatment.

IVF clinics currently have to consider the "welfare" of any child created, including the need for a father.

The issue of the role of fathers in IVF came in the second day of committee stage debate of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, aimed at updating laws from 1990.

On a free vote, MPs rejected a cross-party move for doctors to consider the need for a father in offering IVF by a majority of 75. Doctors will now consider whether a child will have 'supportive parenting.'

The former Conservative Party leader, Ian Duncan Smith unsuccessfully led the cross-party bid to keep the status quo in conditions for IVF treatment.

"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," Mr Duncan said.

The Liberal Democrat 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?"

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of the gay equality organisation Stonewall said: "The House of Commons has recognised Britain as it really is at the start of the 21st century instead of the way some people would have liked it to be in 1958."

MPs also voted to keep the current 24-week abortion limit following a passionate Commons debate and a series of attempts to lower it to 12, 16 or 22 weeks.

On Monday MPs voted to allow the creation of hybrid embryos for medical research, and "saviour siblings" screened as suitable tissue donors for sick children.

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