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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

08 SEP 2011

Clashing symbols? Reconciling support for fathers and fatherless families after the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 [2010] CFLQ 46


The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 extends the attribution of legal parenthood following assisted reproduction to encompass a wider range of same-sex and fatherless families. The Act sparked a lengthy political debate rooted in widespread concern that its provisions will symbolically undermine fatherhood. This article examines the origins and legitimacy of concerns that support for fatherless (specifically lesbian) families presents a threat to the valuation of fatherhood. It suggests that such a view is false and underpinned by fundamental confusion over the separate significance of genetic and social parenthood which remains evident in family law and policy notwithstanding the recent reforms. The article presents the view that further steps to increase the recognition of genetic parents as well as social parents might encourage a shift from the gendered politics which polarises support for fathers and fatherless families.

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