Children versus Identity Politics

Another brilliant piece from CentreRight on today’s vote in the Commons.

And so the votes begin on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill. Feelings are riding high on many issues – from abortion rights to stem-cell research – as well as the issue that most exercises my feelings – the intention to remove the need for a father for children conceived via IVF.

As usual in modern Britain, the discussion has polarised into a debate about a surrogate, with some players using the issue as a trojan horse to advance their team’s colours. Guardian writers claim that opposition to this move is about an attack on "gay rights" (rights which are attracted to other rights of the same gender?), and I’m sure you could find a few quotes from the usual suspects on the right which would help them maintain that belief (have you noticed that the more politics deals with the less obviously economic, the more extreme the language used by its practitioners?). Even some Conservatives seek to portray the issue as a simple matter of equality for gay people. I find this staggeringly wrong-headed.

Why staggering? A simple matter of biology. Same-sex couples cannot conceive without the aid of a third party: that is, to be blunt, they cannot conceive as a couple. Some people view this as a reason for disliking the entire concept of same-sex partnerships: but I cannot see how this would follow. My love for my Other is not made less valid by the extreme improbability of me becoming a father. So let’s just put that silly-ism into the box marked "rubbish arguments" and leave it on the shelf.

Unlike many Conservatives, I supported the government’s requirements that adoption agencies consider the fitness of gay couples as putative adopters: because such considerations are always done in the needs of the existing child. I could not see how one could determine that all children in care homes would in all cases for ever be better off having access to putative adopters denied. While statistically not numerous, it doesn’t seem impossible to me to imagine a situation where children would be better off raised in the home of a loving same-sex couple than they would be if left unadopted. I think of my own family, of course. Were something unimaginably horrible to happen to Keith’s siblings, it would seem bizarrely wrong were we to be prevented from offering a home to their children.

But this is not the same at all as the situation where a gay couple, usually a female couple, demand access to IVF in order to create a new life. Such a theoretical child does not yet exist, and so it is correct to consider the life-chances of such a fatherless child, not in the specific case of the not-yet-existing life, but on the average, with respect to the evidence which exists about the outcomes for fatherless children.

Do we need much more evidence about this? One of the biggest problems in London, and I guess elsewhere, is what happens to (in particular) boys who are raised in a fatherless culture. I wrote last year about the outcomes for a society which persists in the political marginalisation of men, and nothing that’s happened on the streets of London since then has convinced me I was wrong. Children need their fathers.

Children need their fathers. To willfully bring into existence a child who cannot, by definition, know the importance of a father’s love is – forgive me for using the extreme sort of language I usually dislike – bordering on the pathologically insane. Do you doubt me? Close your eyes and imagine your life without your own father. Quite.

I hope our elected members reflect before voting today: reflect and remember their own fathers; consider, in many cases, their own roles as fathers. Do not allow the practitioners of Identity Politics to prevail. This is not a vote about gay people, and to defeat this provision is not an anti-gay signal. It is a vote on the importance of fatherhood.

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