Lord Winston: ‘lesbians make better parents’
The issue is concerned with the rearing of children in the absence of a father figure, and the protagonist is the pathologically-possessed New Labour peer Professor Lord Winston.
Cranmer has considered his pontifications before, and, while respecting his eminent scientific learning, finds his moral worldview repugnant. The problem is that the professor asserts the latter with all the absolute certitude of the former, and his charismatic media presence provides him with an influential pulpit from which he may expound his dogma.
Consider a recent Radio 4 broadcast ‘The Embryo Wars’ in which Lord Winston claims (14 min into the programme) that a study in Cambridge showed that children brought up by lesbian parents were better parented and better adjusted than those brought up by heterosexual parents.
What is the sample size for this eminent piece of research? How many children have been reared by lesbians? While Cranmer has no doubt that the number is increasing, and will even moreso after the HFE Bill is on the statute books, this piece of research must be so profoundly flawed that it is unscientific of the eminent scientist to quote it as in any sense authoritative.
It took decades for scientists to reach conclusions about the adverse effects of smoking tobacco or cannabis, and on the matter of homosexual parenting there is simply insufficient data to give Lord Winston’s assertion any credibility at all. Not-So-New Labour is simply treating children as guinea pigs and is content to experiment on the nation's most vulnerable.
But if one wishes to be generous to Lord Winston and entertain his reasoning, there is a study from 2003 by the Centre for Law and Social Policy which indicated that children under 18 who were reared by lesbian parents displayed no significant differences in behaviour from those who were raised by heterosexual divorcees.
Although the research has evident limitations, the findings are consistent: children raised by same-sex parents are no more likely to exhibit poor outcomes than children raised by divorced heterosexual parents. Since many children raised by gay or lesbian parents have witnessed and endured the separation of their parents, researchers have considered the most appropriate comparison group to be children of heterosexual divorced parents. In terms of educational attainment, children of gay or lesbian parents are indistinguishable from their counterparts raised in heterosexual divorced families, and the same applies to their social, emotional and behavioural development, and also their attitudes towards teenage pregnancy and their employability.
Professor Susan Golombok, who was cited by Lord Winston, apparently addresses many gay and lesbian fora, and lectures at City University. Her editorial in the BMJ in 2007contains findings consistent with those above, but she concludes:
A limitation of the existing body of research is that only small volunteer or convenience samples have been studied, and thus mothers whose children are experiencing difficulties may be under-represented. Nevertheless, a substantial body of evidence indicates that children raised by lesbian mothers do not differ from other children in key aspects of psychological development.
None of this, of course, shows that children brought up by lesbian parents are better adjusted than those brought up in the good old natural way – by a mother and a father who are married. Indeed, research shows that children achieve better and are much better adjusted when a father figure is around.
Lord Winston is an staunch advocate of ‘women’s rights’, and this extends to overriding their natural body clocks and being able to have children when they want, with or without a partner. His vision is one of a ‘one-stop shop’ where successful single women or loving lesbian partners can come for their in-vitro baby. He foresees a time soon when science will be able to produce eggs from stem cells. This has already been done with mice, and the next tests are to be on sperm. We then have the wonderful prospect of children created by two men, and, the ultimate in narcissism, a child created from the cells of a single person.
The debate then turned to ‘saviour siblings’ - babies created for the express purpose of providing tissue to save a brother or a sister.
Ann Widdicombe said that she was extremely concerned about this concept. She and others had sought safeguards to require the child’s consent to donate tissue, which was refused. She had sought a limit on the amount that could be plundered, which was refused. In this she was supported by Lord Winston who agreed that the child, when grown up, could have imposed on it a continuing responsibility toward their sick brother or sister.
Fr James Hanvey, Director of the Heythrop institute for Religion, Ethics and Public Life, rightly asks where all this is leading, and where it will stop. He observes that once we remove the absolute respect for the human person - no matter how much legislative control is put in place - we erode the deep sense of respect for a person at the beginning of its life. If we choose to treat a human being as a commodity, what is there to stop us creating a whole group of persons - a slave class - which can be used as donors for whatever purpose? Is this civilisation?
And Baroness Deech enters towards the end of the programme, and was asked what she thought the scientific future was going to be. She said essentially that as a woman who has borne children, her figure is not what she would like it to be. But embryos can now be kept alive for 14 days until the statutory requirement to kill them. And also babies can survive outside the womb at say 23 weeks. So her conclusion was that this gap of around 21 weeks needed to be bridged, and it was down to science to achieve this by developing a tank with nutrients in which the child could develop and the mother could collect the baby at end of term, figure intact.
While Cranmer wonders what manner of ‘mother’ this would be who is content to watch her child develop next to the goldfish, it is clear that we are moving towards a society which not only negates the need for a father, but also diminishes motherhood to the simple provision of an ovum.
Has science finally discovered a way of implementing Plato’s vision that all human reproduction be state controlled? Having abolished the need for a father, are we but a few steps away from needing a mother’s womb? Would the withdrawal of ante-natal health provision encourage all citizens to make use of government-sponsored incubators for the production of the next generation?
If Parliament continues along its present course, this is indeed the likely destination, with unknown and unknowable consequences. And the likes of Dr Evan Harris, Lord Winston and Baroness Deech will go down in history as the legislative architects, and they shall be lauded and honoured:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!
Such people indeed.