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No surprise that gay couples go abroad for IVF

24 July 2000
By Juliet Tizzard
Director, Progress Educational Trust
Appeared in BioNews 68
So the gay fathers, Tony Barlow and Barrie Drewitt, are moving to America. Despite their moralising about the couple, the British media will no doubt be sad to see them go. For Barlow and Drewitt have provided them with a great story for news and for commentary.

From their new home in the US, the couple will avoid the accusations of foreign baby shopping trips with their latest surrogacy arrangement. But anyone who was appalled by Barlow and Drewitt's US trips to commission surrogates is in part to blame for their having to go abroad in the first place.

UK fertility clinics, some of which offer IVF with surrogacy, are subject to no legal restrictions on who they accept onto their programmes, other than that they must consider the welfare of any child born as a result of the treatment they provide. Thus clinics, inevitably influenced by the staff's own preferences, make their own policies about who - and who not - to treat. The result is a highly unpredictable set-up whereby gay couples seeking donor insemination or IVF surrogacy have to trawl the clinics for one sympathetic to their situation - often to no avail. Many gay people don't bother looking because they assume - correctly - that they won't get treated.

It's no surprise, therefore, that people in these circumstances often make their own private arrangements or - like Tony Barlow and Barrie Drewitt - they seek treatment abroad.

But it's not just the morally charged atmosphere in the UK that forces gay couples to go elsewhere for surrogacy. If a gay couple is lucky enough to find a clinic that will offer IVF surrogacy, British law prevents their going ahead with it. This isn't because of IVF legislation, but because of rules governing Parental Order, the fast-track adoption system for couples who have had a child through surrogacy. Unlike normal adoption procedures or any other procedure associated with IVF, Parental Orders regulations require that the couple be married.

All of this amounts to an environment where gay parenting is frowned upon from start to finish. With the possible exception of the UK armed forces, discrimination against gay people is considered unacceptable in every walk of life but reproduction. Isn't it about time gay parenting was accepted as normal?

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