Every Family Matters and the HFE Act 2008

06 NOV 2009

Brenda Almond, Emeritus Professor of Moral and Social Philosophy of the University of Hull, former Member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and of the Human Genetics Commission

Most of the discussion about Every Family Matters, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) review of family law, has focused on marriage and divorce but the Review included important recommendations beyond this area, some of them relating to new legislation included in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill received Royal Assent on 13 November 2008 after a year of scrutiny and debate in Parliament. The Family Law Review group contributed to that debate with a Report for the CSJ as the Bill was going through this appraisal process (Fathers not Included: a response to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (18/05/2008)).

Family lawyers may be unaware of how directly the new legislation affects their central concern: the family. It embodies fundamental changes to the meaning of central aspects of family and parenthood, motherhood as well as fatherhood. Little attention, however, was given to the risks involved in changing the legal framework surrounding parentage to allow parental status to be recognised on the sole basis of adults' intentions. The Review therefore recommended revisiting some of the unresolved confusions introduced by the new Act, in particular those that affect our understanding of motherhood and also downgrade the importance of fatherhood. A main aim of this reappraisal would be to ensure that the interests of adults are not elevated above those of children in a way that not only has profound implications for society but is also sharply at odds with other aspects of government policy.

To read the rest of this article, see November [2009] Family Law journal.

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