14 April 2009
ByAppeared in BioNews 503
New legislation has come into force in the UK which will help to create a 'level playing field' for same-sex couples undergoing IVF treatment. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, which received Royal Assent in November last year, make provision for both women in a civil partnership to be named on their child's birth certificate. This means that from now on, the civil partner of the woman who gives birth will automatically be regarded as the second legal parent.
The legislation mirrors what already happens in the case of heterosexual couples; the husband of the woman receiving IVF treatment is automatically considered the second legal parent and is recorded as such on the child's birth certificate. Professor Lisa Jardine, chairwoman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has said that the new rule creates a 'level playing field' for couples whose desire for a family is a 'very powerful force...regardless of sexual orientation or circumstance' and for whom the only option of being recognised as legal parents of a child conceived through IVF until now has been adoption.
The HFEA also sees the 2008 Act as a change which removes some of the barriers single women and same-sex couples have traditionally faced when trying to access IVF treatment, i.e., consideration of the child's 'need for a father'.
It will now also be possible for a person other than the woman's partner to be named on a birth certificate providing they have given consent and are not a close blood relative. This is of particular relevance to single women embarking on IVF treatment. New consent forms have been designed and must be registered before embryo transfer and implantation takes place, with the understanding that this second parent will be legally and financially responsible for the child. Parents will not be able to be 'added' to birth certificates retrospectively and same sex couples and single women have been advised to wait until after this week for treatment in order to take advantage of the new legislation.
At present, only lesbian couples and single women benefit from these new regulations, however in April 2010 it will be possible for male couples who have a child through egg donation and surrogacy to apply for a Parental Order which, if granted, would enable them both to be named parents on the child's birth certificate.
The law still does not cover women and same sex couples who self-inseminate at home.