Fatherhood took a blow yesterday as new regulations came into force to allow anyone to be named as the second parent on the birth certificate of children born by IVF.
The mother can designate anyone she wishes to be the ‘second parent’ regardless of their relationship to her or the child, or whether the person is male or female.
A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said the move brought the UK’s fertility law into line with ‘equalities’ legislation.
Professor Lisa Jardine, HFEA chairwoman claimed the move was “levelling the playing field” for same-sex couples.
She said: “From now on all parents, regardless of their sexuality and status, will now be named on their child’s birth certificate.”
But many family campaigners and MPs criticised the legislation, pointing to a huge body of evidence that children need a father in their life.
Last month, Baroness Deech, the former chair of the HFEA, said: “This is putting the rights of the parents way above those of the child. It is absurd that anyone can be named as the father or the second parent.”
Also commenting on the new legislation last month Tory MP Ann Widdecombe said: “Every child has got a right to a father and this bill for the first time deliberately creates a situation where children are born without a father.”
The head of the Centre for Social Justice think-tank, Iain Duncan Smith, a leading spokesman on marriage and the family said the new law is in danger of “airbrushing” out fathers.
He said in response to the new rules: “Teenage pregnancy is on the increase, abortion is on the increase, family breakdown is at record levels and we have got a growing number of dysfunctional children that are the product of broken homes.
“The lesson seems to be loud and clear to me that fathers are required.”
There has been overwhelming research to show the damage caused to children as a result of family breakdown and absent fathers.
Last year a new study showed children are likely to do better at school and in later life if their fathers take an active role in their upbringing.
Researchers at the University of Newcastle found children whose fathers played and read with them had higher IQs and went on to achieve greater social status than those whose fathers had little involvement.
Dr Daniel Nettle, who led the research, said: “What was surprising about this research was the real sizeable difference in the progress of children who benefited from paternal interest and how thirty years later, people whose dads were involved are more upwardly mobile.”
Earlier last year, Mr Duncan Smith warned that many boys are turning to gang leaders and drug dealers for role models to replace absent fathers.