Health Minister Simon Harris has announced that he is ‘commencing’ sections of the Children and Family Relationships Act for the first time. This law, passed in 2015, governs, among other things, the legal relationships between children conceived via egg and sperm donation, and the ‘intended parents’. Harris is almost guaranteed soft questions from journalists on this issue. Here are a few tough questions they might put to him if they are so minded.
- Egg and sperm donation deliberately sever the link between a child and at least one biological parent. Are you saying the natural ties don’t matter?
- The Children and Family Relationships Act allows for either a mother or a father to be deliberately cut from a child’s life. How do you defend that?
- If ‘love is all a child needs’, then why do adopted children often go looking for their natural parents?
- Have you ever met campaigners for the rights of donor-conceived children, some of whom were themselves donor-conceived? If not, why not?
- Some feminists object to surrogacy in all forms, commercial and non-commercial. What do you have to say in response?
- Some critics of surrogacy say it commodifies children. What is your view of that?
- Some critics of surrogacy say it exploits women because it is almost always poor women who become surrogates. What is your response?
- The Government says it is against commercial surrogacy but seems to have no plans to discourage couples going abroad to use commercial surrogacy. Why is that?
- You have authorised the deliberate alteration of birth certs so that the names of the natural parents need not appear. Given the adoption scandals of the past, how do you justify that?
- Why is it ok to deprive a donor-conceived child knowledge of their biological parents until they are 18?
- Given that almost all donor-sperm and eggs come from outside the country, how realistic is it that donor-conceived children will ever have a proper relationship with their donor-parent?
I have never heard any of the above questions being put to our Health Minister. It is as if none these huge ethical issues exist. But it is the duty of journalists to ask challenging questions and not give Ministers an easy ride simply because they agree with what they are doing, or haven’t thought much about the issue themselves.