Little to say for myself

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Whose life is it anyway?

The High Court's decision today, to deny two women the right to implant frozen embryos against the wishes of the biological fathers (their ex-partners), is right.

It's crushingly sad that these women can now not conceive more children of their own, and I don't want to diminish that sadness, but there's more at stake here than what these two women want.

There are three reasons why I think the decision was right, in order of increasing significance:
  • They knew and accepted from the outset that the embryos would only be implanted with the consent of both parents, and it's neither a legal, legitimate nor, frankly, a sensible argument to say that they didn't think their partners might leave them at the time they made the decision. If that's true, then it wasn't an informed decision in the first place.
  • What if the tables were turned, and it was a now-sterile man who wanted the child? Would the court have ruled in his favour and allowed the embryo to be implanted in the womb of his new partner, ignoring the mother's wishes? Er, no.
  • Most crucially, I'd question the motivation of these women (or my hypothetical man) to put themselves through all this immense stress and hardship to turn these particular embryos into people. Would it be in the best interests of the child? There is already too great a tendency for many parents to think of their children as somehow "belonging to them", rather than as independent individuals with separate rights. It's the same mentality that says it's OK to whack a child so long as you're the parent.
It's a false argument to say (as some have) that, if the women had conceived naturally before the couple split, the fathers would have no decision rights - so why should they now? In that case the pregnant woman has primacy over what should happen to her body. In the case where she is not yet pregnant, it is the potential child whose interests should come first.

We don't own our children, and for these women to go to such extremes to have "their" children, rather than, say, a donor egg fertilised either anonymously or by their new partner, makes me feel uneasy about the issues those children would have to deal with in later life.

I certainly wouldn't want to think that I owed the fact of my existence to one of my parents winning an argument with the other.

posted by Plig | 19:14 |

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