You wouldn't sell or give away your kids, would you?
So don't donate your sperm!
The fact that there are single mothers doesn't make it right
By Theodore Dalrymple
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 22/01/2004
The worst child abusers in the country have been successive British governments. They have done everything in their power, by means of social reform and fiscal policies, to promote the very circumstances in which child abuse and neglect are most likely to take place. He who says single parenthood – at least in Britain – says moral, spiritual and emotional degradation, squalor and deprivation. He who promotes single parenthood is indifferent to the fate of children.
Yet another step on the primrose path to perdition has just been proposed by the chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Suzi Leather (beware of people in authority who use diminutives of their names). She has suggested that, henceforth, the clause requiring doctors to take account of the need of a child for a father, when offering in vitro fertilisation to infertile women, should be removed from the law. The idea that fathers are necessary or even desirable in the lives of children is, in the opinion of Ms Leather, too old-fashioned to be entertained any longer.
Ms Leather is one of those who think that the social trends she no doubt approves of are self-justifying. "It is absolutely clear," she said, "if you think about the changes in society and the different ways that families can be constituted that it is anachronistic for the law to include the statement about the need for a father." That is to say, if enough people do something, it is right, and the law should lend its imprimatur to it. If you think about it, it is absolutely clear that the changes in the rate of burglary over the past 50 years mean that it is anachronistic to lock your door or expect the police to do anything about it when your house is broken into.
What is so deeply revolting about Ms Leather's lucubrations is their unutterable and invincible bourgeois complacency, worthy of Messrs Pecksniff and Podsnap. If you care to look at the already extensive part of the country in which fatherhood scarcely exists, except in the merest biological sense, you will find not merely an alternative, but a very much worse kind of family life (the word family being used very loosely). It exists in a Hobbesian world of primitive brutality, where the man with the biggest fist or biggest machete or biggest gun rules, and where children are soon inducted into a wholly egotistical code of conduct in which what you do is determined only by what you can get away with.
It is a world from which increasingly there is no escape. It is a world in which women are subjected to far more domestic violence than ever before, and in which children experience a dialectic between gross over-indulgence on the one hand and savage repression on the other, according to the mood of the moment. Merely to call this way of life different is abject cowardice or dishonesty. Indeed, having lived and worked in several parts of the world, and having travelled very extensively, I should say that it is the worst way of life known to me anywhere. To say that we should merely accept it as inevitable, as part of the march of history, as an inescapable part of the zeitgeist, is to accept descent into degradation. It is complacently to accept disaster, both for the individuals caught up in it and for society as a whole. Ms Leather's proposals are one more sentence in our long national suicide note.
For her, a seventh-rate sophomoric moral generalisation – that we should not discriminate between ways of life – is more important than the real lives of millions of her fellow beings, including children. What she demands is this: IVF on demand. In order to satisfy women's unbridled whims, children will be brought into the world at public expense, and then brought up at public expense. You, dear reader, are already de facto more responsible for the upkeep of a good (or should I say a bad?) proportion of the children of Britain than their fathers are, who would never dream of wasting their money on support of their offspring; and here is yet another proposal to extend the paternal role of the state.
In Ms Leather's brave new world, women are to have children merely because they want them, as is their government-given right, irrespective of their ability to bring them up, or who has to pay for them, or the consequences to the children themselves. Men are to be permanently infantilised, their income being in essence pocket money for them to spend on their enjoyments, having no serious responsibilities at all (beyond paying tax). Henceforth, the state will be father to the child, and the father will be child of the state.
There is nothing pre-ordained about this. It is not written in the genes of history; on the contrary, it is something that successive governments, either deliberately or by inadvertence, have brought about. It is simply not true that it is irreversible, in the sense that people could not be encouraged to behave otherwise by tax incentives and changes in the law.
Ms Leather's proposal is a peculiar and, in my view, poisonous mixture of unbridled individualism on the one hand and nanny-state interference on the other. In order that all the children in the vast kindergarten, conventionally known as Britain, should get exactly what they want, the teacher-state has to assume vast powers of taxation, regulation and redistribution. Without these powers, the women simply couldn't afford to have children on a whim, just because they wanted them, nor would men be able to escape their responsibilities.
In my medical work, I meet practically no child, youth or young adult who has any kind of relationship with his or her father. Not only do fathers believe they have no responsibility towards their offspring, but the mothers do not believe it either. The mass misery of this way of life cannot be offset by the undoubted fact that a relatively small number of very capable women bring up children successfully without the support of fathers.
Ms Leather's proposals are thus completely lacking in compassion, deeply unimaginative and wholly bad in their effects. A social trend is not to be accepted merely because it exists. We should not follow a multitude to do evil.
Theodore Dalrymple is a practising GP