Written Out of the Law: A Child’s Right to a Father

MPs last night backed a controversial new law which will let clinics offer fertility treatment without a child’s right to a father.

A cross-party amendment by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith designed to keep the rule failed by 292 votes to 217.

The new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is now set to make it easier for lesbians and single mothers to get treatments like IVF.

The vote came hours before MPs were due to square up for another Commons ethics showdown, this time over abortion.

Mr Duncan Smith, who has led a major study into social breakdown since rejoining the backbenches, said it was “utter nonsense” to suggest it was discriminatory to insist on the role of a father.

He was backed by Labour’s David Taylor who said it was “perverse” to “write the father out of the script”.

Geraldine Smith, another Labour supporter of the move, told Mr Duncan Smith: “To most people outside this House you are just talking common sense. They would wonder why we are even having this debate.

“Is there any wonder people think politicians are out of touch with ordinary people when we have debates such as this.

“It’s nonsense to suggest that we shouldn’t take into account the need for a father.”

But Labour’s Emily Thornberry (Islington South) warned that keeping the need for a father would cause confusion.

She said: “I always worry when people start saying they are only applying common sense, because, so often, common sense is a cover for discrimination, narrowness and an inability to face the 21st century.”

But Tory Sir Patrick Cormack (S Staffordshire) hit back: “Whatever may be the case in Islington, in Staffordshire it’s thought normal for a child to have a mother and a father.”

Heath Minister Dawn Primarolo said research showed children of same-sex couples did “similarly well” as those born of heterosexual donor-inseminated couples.

“What counts is the quality of parenting,” she stressed. “This House needs to face that proposition.”

But the DUP’s Iris Robinson told her: “Can you envisage a child going to primary school and being collected by two females or two males and the bullying and the abuse that these children will be exposed to? Or going into the parents’ bedroom and finding two women making love or two men making love? And that’s natural for a child to see?”

A series of Commons amendments last night gave MPs the chance to vote for a reduction in the current 24-week limit for abortions to between 22 and 12 weeks. They were the first sustained attempt to cut the time limit in 18 years.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who put forward the amendment to change the abortion laws, said she believed the right of a woman to choose had its limits.

She said: “If a baby feels pain as part of a barbaric abortion process – which is what happens post-20 weeks – and if we know that baby could live if it was allowed to be born, then there comes the point when that baby has rights which are of equal parity to the mother’s.”

Ian Lucas, campaign manager of the Pro Life Group, claimed support was growing over a cut to 22 weeks, a proposal favoured by Tory leader David Cameron.