Thursday, 13 December 2007

More from the HFE Bill committee

Baroness Barker:

Baroness Barker is severely lacking insight:
A longitudinal and international study by Liverpool John Moores University suggested that, were the population to be tested—and before eyes on the government Front Bench light up, I am not suggesting for a moment that it should be—somewhere between 10 per cent and 25 per cent of people would turn out to have a genetic father who is different from the person we consider to be our father.
Is this true? I am deeply skeptical and would like to see some hard evidence on it.
Why? It is partly because people have lied on birth certificates ever since birth certificates have been around. People have chosen either not to register information or they have at times put down false information. Why? It is for all the reasons that people exist. I suspect that when people chose to do it, they did it for one outstanding reason: they thought it was in the best interests of the child. In any type of relationship, truth can sometimes be very difficult to live with.
Rubbish! It's always in the best interests of the child to know who his or her true parents are. Anyone lying on a birth certificate has committed fraud. Lying about paternity is only in the best interests of the adults, to save them from an uncomfortable admission and to avoid them having to face up to the truth of what they've done.
A birth certificate is not a certificate of somebody’s genetic identity. We do not have such a thing, and never have had. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and I disagree here, but it is a record of who a child’s social parents are at any time.
False. The birth certificate has always been about biological and genetic origin. Millions of people who look up birth certificates to trace their family history believe them to record the truth about their genetic history.
It would be wrong to suggest to any child who was born into a family, and whose birth was planned, wanted and much desired by the two people constituting that family—that is, the two people in the partnership—that that was not so. It is not about trying to deceive people; on the contrary, it is a different kind of truth.
False. Donor conception has always created a social fiction, and putting incorrect names on the birth certificate introduces a legal fiction as well, one in which the state currently colludes.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester:

My understanding of the word “parent” is that it means a progenitor. It means a mother or a father in the strictest physical sense, whether by donation or whatever. It means, in the genetic sense, a mother or father. Although I recognise the interests of this Bill, I am very troubled by what I see as an untruthful widening of the meaning of “parent”.
I'm upset that it's only religious people who seem to be comfortable speaking the truth.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham:
... where secular, appointed officials hold down a job under parliamentary writ and authority, their conscience in good faith is to all of the ramifications of that job as laid down by law. They may not pick and chose to decide that they will or will not, for example, register somebody who is black or yellow or brown or too small or too large or gay. That is part of the responsibility that comes with holding office by law established.
But perhaps they could decide not to register a birth when they are presented with obviously false information, such as two female parents!

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon:
I understand that some see as a fallacy recording on a birth certificate that a child has a mother and a second parent who happens to be female. However, I must point out that a child born to a married couple by the use of donor sperm has recorded on his birth certificate that the husband is his father, although he is in fact not his biological father.
Yes, and the latter is an injustice. Let's forbid it rather than allowing more injustice by permitting the former!
The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, is correct to say that there is only ever one mother on a birth certificate and there can never be confusion about who is the mother.
False. Surrogacy and egg "donation" are two issues which cloud this area significantly.

Baroness Deech:
We should be focusing on the child’s origins, not the situation of the parents.

A birth certificate is not a social record but a historical record. The social situation of children, the legal responsibility for them, and questions of their maintenance and upbringing are quite distinct issues. The birth certificate is a historical record that ought to be as accurate as possible, and should not be used to achieve ends other than the facts.
Baroness Williams of Crosby:
if a birth certificate does not reflect accurately what such certificates are about—that is, a statement of biological origin—then, far from actually adding to the stability and happiness of the child, one raises huge issues and questions about how that child came to be.
I am terribly troubled about this—not because I have any prejudice against the matter, but about a legal acceptance of something that is not a fact suddenly becoming a fact because Parliament says so.