Goodbye father, hello brave new world of the “second parent”. Single women in Britain having fertility treatment to become a mother will be able to name almost anyone as the second parent under the new Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act, which comes into force next month. As long as the second adult, which can be a man or a woman, agrees to being named as a parent, then their name can be added to the birth certificate. The only restriction will be close blood relatives and if the second person does not agree.

The definition of a modern family is so complicated under the HFE Act that it took 14 pages of legal jargon and notes to explain mother, father and parent. Whoever the mother is married to/in a relationship with will normally be considered the father, even if there is no biological connection with the offspring — unless the partner objects.

Sperm donors have no legal responsibilities towards the child, who may, however, access information about their biological father once they are 18. A dead husband or male partner can be recorded as the father of a child conceived through fertility treatment, provided he consented in advance.

Critics point out that there is a danger the father or second parent will be chosen from amongst transient friends and the arrangement will be fragile. Others said the birth certificate is meant to be a record of the child’s genetic origins and the rights of the child were being forgotten. ~ Telegraph (UK), March 1

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet