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Government's rush to embrace the 'new normal' downgrades the natural family


Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara in the smash-hit US comedy TV series ‘Modern Family’: in reality the moral dilemmas posed by the proposed legislation to cater for Ireland’s ‘modern families’ may prove to be not so funny.

Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara in the smash-hit US comedy TV series ‘Modern Family’: in reality the moral dilemmas posed by the proposed legislation to cater for Ireland’s ‘modern families’ may prove to be not so funny.

Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara in the smash-hit US comedy TV series ‘Modern Family’: in reality the moral dilemmas posed by the proposed legislation to cater for Ireland’s ‘modern families’ may prove to be not so funny.

BBC2 recently aired 'The Vikings are Coming'. It's not what you think. It wasn't about Vikings. Instead it was a documentary about Denmark's thriving export market in the sperm of Danish men.

The programme followed a number of English women - single women and lesbian couples - buying sperm from a sperm bank in Denmark so they could try and become pregnant.

We watched as they browsed catalogues of sperm donors trying to find one who matched their specifications. Two of the women said it was like "shopping on Amazon".

Here in Ireland, when people go to fertility clinics and need to use someone else's sperm to have a child, a lot of the time they use sperm purchased from Denmark.

Something of the same kind of thing applies when you're looking for an egg donor. You literally shop through a catalogue looking for a donor who has the kind of hair colour, height, eye colour, weight, level of education, good looks and athletic prowess that suits you.

The better looking the donor is, the more educated, the more athletic, the more expensive the eggs will be.

If this is not commodification of children then literally nothing is. But it is what the Government's Children and Family Relationships Bill, published this week, explicitly gives its blessing and authorisation to - and poor Joe Public has hardly a clue what is happening in his name.

The vast majority of people who use IVF and others forms of Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) do not buy sperm and eggs. They use their own. This means the resultant child has not been effectively purchased from a catalogue. The child is the natural child of the couple in every way.

But a growing percentage of those who use IVF and other forms of AHR use purchased eggs or sperm because they are single people or in a same-sex relationship. Therefore there is either a man or a woman missing in each case. But they don't let their inability to provide their planned child with a mother and a father stand in the way of their ambition to be parents.

Let's paint a picture of the sort of scenario our Government - with the full backing of the opposition parties - believes is perfectly all right.

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Imagine two men who wish to be parents. There's a problem, in that they have neither an egg nor a womb. No worries, they can simply go to the nearest fertility clinic, browse through an egg-donor catalogue and find an egg donor they like. They hand over the cash and buy the egg or eggs.

Their next problem is to find a woman willing to give them the use of her womb for nine months. She will be the so-called 'surrogate mother'. Minister for Health Leo Varadkar is planning legislation in this area. He plans to ban 'commercial surrogacy' - where you pay a woman for the use of her womb - but will allow so-called 'non-commercial' surrogacy, which in the UK still involves paying a fee of around £15,000 to cover 'expenses'.

The two men will then take delivery of the child who they have obtained by paying one woman for her egg and another woman for her womb, but this child will have no mother in their life. The child will be deliberately robbed of a mother.

This is what Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Children's Minister James Reilly, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and virtually every other politician in the Oireachtas are giving their express approval to. And they have the audacity to claim the Children and Family Relationships Bill (and planned surrogacy legislation) is pro-child.

What they are saying is that it is 'pro-child' to facilitate the wishes of single men, single women or same-sex couples to use Assisted Human Reproduction to create children who will be deliberately raised without either a mother or a father as the case may be.

The Government will claim all this is happening anyway and they are simply regulating it and creating parenting rights for all concerned, which benefits the children.

But the Government (and the opposition) could follow a completely different approach. They could, if they wished, copy the likes of Germany or Italy. Germany and Italy only allow male/female couples to use IVF and other forms of AHR because only a man and a woman together can provide a child with a mother and a father.

Both countries also ban surrogacy in all its forms. Germany, in addition, bans egg donation and permits only married couples to use AHR, in the interests of children.

Our Government instead backs an extremely radical approach to the issue, one that says there is no special value in a child having a loving mother and father and therefore it is alright to use IVF to deliberately rob a child of one or the other.

Much the same thing is happening with regard to the planned change to our adoption law.

This, too, destroys the preference for motherhood and fatherhood that should be at the centre of adoption policy.

By giving a same-sex couple the same adoption rights as a married man and woman, the Government and opposition are once again declaring that they see no special value in a child having the love of both a mother and a father.

Thus they have signed up to the 'Modern Family', 'New Normal' view of the family, one that downgrades the importance of the natural family and replaces the notion of motherhood and fatherhood with a de-gendered notion of 'parenthood'.

Children in decades to come will wonder how we convinced ourselves this was the right thing to do. We will stand indicted once again.