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Cinderella and her cruel sisters: parenthood, welfare and gender in the human fertilisation and embryology act 2008

McCandless, Julie (2013) Cinderella and her cruel sisters: parenthood, welfare and gender in the human fertilisation and embryology act 2008. New Genetics and Society, 32 (2). pp. 135-153. ISSN 1463-6778

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Identification Number: 10.1080/14636778.2013.788357


This paper takes as its starting point the comparative parliamentary time spent discussing the welfare of the child and parenthood provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. While the former commanded over 8 hours of debate - most of which was spent discussing the proposed removal of the words "the child's need for a father" from the legislation - the parenthood provisions generated approximately only one hour of debate. This seems curious, given that the parenthood provisions (which govern the attribution of legal parenthood following certain fertility treatments governed by the legislation) are likely to have much more of a "real life" effect, and given that subtle changes in the wording of the welfare provision from "need for a father" to "need for supportive parenting" are unlikely to make a great deal of difference to actual clinical practice. In contrast, extending legal parenthood to a second female parent from the moment of a child's birth has important symbolic as well as practical legal consequences for two women having a child together. This paper begins by setting this curious scene and explaining why it is problematic. The first part of the paper focusses on the reform of the welfare clause and will contextualize the extensive discussion of this clause in socio-political concerns about assisted reproduction, the role of men and masculinity in family life, and the role of genetics in underpinning these concerns. Against this backdrop, the second part of the paper then analyzes why so little attention was paid to the parenthood provisions, pointing to the "common sense" assumptions which typically shored up the discussions surrounding this part of the legislation. This part of the paper will also draw attention to a number of significant gender-based connotations in the parenthood provisions

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Divisions: Law
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2013 15:35
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:29

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