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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
IVF 'need for father' rule may go
Image of a baby
Clinics must consider the welfare of the child
Ministers have given the clearest indication yet that fertility clinics will no longer be able to refuse treatment to single women and lesbians.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said there was "probably not a case" for keeping "the need for a father" clause in new fertility rules.

Currently, clinics must take account of the welfare of the unborn child, including the need for a father.

The regulatory changes could come into effect next year.

What's important is that the children are going to be, as far as we know, part of a loving family
Public Health Minister Caroline Flint

Ms Flint said more detailed proposals would be unveiled later in the year, probably over the summer.

Giving evidence to the Commons science and technology committee, Ms Flint said: "We are considering whether the need for a father is something we need to have."

She stressed: "That does not mean fathers are not important. What's important is that the children are going to be, as far as we know, part of a loving family.


Despite the relaxation of rules on adoption, many single women and lesbian couples are still believed to face rejection by IVF clinics.

The committee said last year that the situation was "offensive" to unconventional families.

Also, people argue that no such checks and rules apply when people conceive naturally.

Liberal Democrat committee member Evan Harris welcomed the proposed changes.

He said: "I'm pleased that after 16 years of licensed discrimination against solo mothers and lesbian couples, there are signs that it will come to an end.

"On the welfare of the potential child, I hope that the Government's new formulation will restrict the test to foreseeable serious medical harm based on evidence and not simply on prejudice."

Opponents have claimed the proposed changes are essentially a bid to create fatherless families headed by single or lesbian women.

Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "This is clearly an attempt to be non-discriminatory but actually this is in itself discriminatory because you are suggesting that a child does not need a father."

A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said there was nothing barring lesbian couples from having IVF.

As part of the reforms to the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, the government intends to change the law to outlaw sex selection for non-medical reasons.

Professor Allan Templeton, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "I think it is reasonable to say that IVF and donor insemination have been available for single women and same sex couples, where issues to do with the welfare of the child have been addressed, and where they are willing to pay for treatment."

He added that NHS-provided IVF was not yet available for most eligible people, despite being recommended in national guidelines.

How fertility laws might change
16 Aug 05 |  Health
Fertility rules challenged by MPs
03 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
Lesbian couple want 'rare IVF'
19 Apr 05 |  Health

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