Trouble ahead for childhood

Fergus Finlay, who heads up the Barnardos charity in Ireland, in Tuesday’s Irish Examiner newspaper (March 3) chastises the Iona Institute for saying that the Government does not believe that “the ideal for a child is to be raised by their two married, biological parents. and therefore, it is a matter of total indifference to them whether a child is raised by one man, one woman, two step-parents, a cohabiting couple, two men, two women, or the child’s married biological parents”.

Finlay says “It’s amazing, isn’t it, how people can make such sweeping statements and still expect to be taken seriously?” But what The Iona Institute describes is precisely what the Children and Family Relationships Bill is designed to authorise. It permits cohabiting couples to adopt and therefore is indifferent as to whether or not the parents of children are married. It permits cohabiting couples, single people and same-sex couples the right to use donor eggs and/or donor sperm to have children even though none of these can give the resultant child both a mother and a father, let alone a married mother and father.

Furthermore, when a child is conceived via a donor egg and/or sperm the natural tie to at least one parent will be deliberately severed and therefore it is absolutely undeniable that the Government is entirely indifferent as to whether children are raised by their natural parents or not.

So in what way is The Iona Institute’s claim false? Mr Finlay does not say. Furthermore, Mr Finlay gives absolutely no indication that he himself cares whether children are raised by their biological married parents or not so long as they are raised by someone.

If Mr Finlay himself believes that, in general, children ought to be raised by their own mothers and fathers (assuming they are fit parents), and never be deliberately deprived of either, then let him say it. If he doesn’t believe this, then let him admit it.

What I find mind-boggling is Finlay’s disingenuous sleight of hand in failing to acknowledge the Iona Institute’s focus which is the natural parent of a child. Given the first-hand knowledge which one would expect him to have of the pain and confusion children experience when they suffer the loss oftheir natural parents – for one reason or another – one would expect him to be more in ture with all the realities involved here. Provisons in this Bill are going to deny some children the right to be able to know and love their natural parent. The added injury is that this proposed legislation is paving the way for turning natural parenthood into a cold, clinical and detached procedure, procreating children not for their own sake but for the self-gratification of adults.

He says “honest legislators have to accept that children are conceived in different ways.” No, they do not have to accept this. If they are honest they will have to think a great deal more deeply about all the ways which modern science and medicine can manipulate the act of procreation and they will, if honest,  moral and responsible, think of all the consequences of some of these ways – and legislate accordingly.

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