Children’s future should be decided by parents, not by committee
spiked editor Mick Hume's Notebook in The Times (London).
- As the proud father of two little girls, I could not imagine asking doctors to guarantee me a son in order to ‘balance’ our family.
But neither would I dream of asking the Government to stop others doing so. If the technology is there, people should be free to choose the sex of their babies with no ethical ifs or buts. Anything less means treating prospective parents as irresponsible infants.
Suzi Leather is not, as some perverse minds might imagine, the professional name of a basement-flat dominatrix. Ms Leather is the respectable chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, a member of the Labour Party and the Christian Socialist Movement. Under her leadership, however, the HFEA has made a profession out of whipping prospective parents into line. In 2003 Ms Leather declared a ban on selecting a baby’s sex for non-medical reasons. This ban and other HFEA regulatory powers were challenged this year in a report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee. In response, the Government this week announced a review of the law on assisted reproduction. That law should be aborted.
To justify official interference in people’s reproductive choices, the law makes paramount ‘the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of the treatment’. The unspoken assumption is that a child’s welfare must be protected from without, by the HFEA or the courts. Why? Because the authorities see parents as potentially selfish fashion victims who cannot be trusted to decide what is best for their own children.
So when the MPs’ report modestly suggested that most decisions over IVF treatment should be left to patients and their doctors, it caused outrage in some quarters. Five members of the committee refused to support what one Labour MP branded a ‘Frankenstein report’. Perhaps she knows of parents keen to chop up their babies and make a monster out of the body parts. The Government’s announcement of a review had more experts warning of a ‘slippery slope’ towards Brave New World-style eugenics.
Whatever happened to the distinction between disapproving of something and disallowing it? Nobody has to think sex selection is a good thing. But that should not give Ms Leather or anybody else the whip hand to deny such choices to others.
Ian Gibson, the Labour chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, observed that ‘critics of our report have described it as ultra-libertarian, which sounds as if it should be an insult. Why belief in liberty should be seen as extreme is beyond me.’ You and me both, Mr Gibson. But we are up against those who see parents as the problem, for whom freedom is just a slippery slope, and who say ‘informed choice’ when they mean ‘do as we tell you’. O brave new world, that has such people in’t.
- The silly season meets the War on Terror.
The chief constable of Nottinghamshire has bought 20,000 green ribbons for his officers and members of the public to wear, apparently to show Muslims who fear persecution that ‘not everyone is prejudiced or bigoted’. So presumably if you spot any white person not wearing one – watch out, there’s a bigot about. This sort of high-profile, low-intelligence gesture of unity from the police of all people is far more likely to intensify a sense of grievance on all sides. It can only confirm in the minds of some Muslims that they suffer a special victim status in British society. And it will have some white people asking: ‘Who’s he calling bigoted?’
With Nottingham in the hands of such masters of public and community relations, perhaps it is just as well that the England cricket team are playing Australia rather than Pakistan in the city next week.
- To those who complained that my remarks last week about the risks of sunbathing, passive smoking and overindulging on holiday were irresponsibly flippant, a late recommendation for beach reading.
Panic Nation: Unpicking the Myths We’re Told about Food and Health is a collection of essays edited by Stanley Feldman and Vincent Marks.
True, the introduction is by an irresponsible journalist (me), but the chapters are written by experts who do know what they’re talking about. Read it, and enjoy what remains of our moment in the sun.
Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.