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News Home | Today's News | Yesterday's News

Lesbian Couples Wanting Children Get Free Advice

Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - A partially tax-funded family planning advice center in New Zealand has started offering fertility services to same-sex couples who want to have children.

Critics say the Family Planning Association (FPA), which gets about half of its funding from the government, has not succeeded in its mainstream focus of helping ensure a healthy sexual environment, and therefore, the critics say they're skeptical that it now wants to spend its limited resources on a highly dubious project.

Some lesbian couples in Auckland, New Zealand's largest population center, want a baby but are unable to afford the cost for one of them to undergo artificial insemination, the FPA says. As a result, some are reportedly trying to do the job themselves at home.

FPA representative Christine Roke said the couples, unaware of the risk of infection, could place their health at risk by doing so.

These couples were not catered to by the health system, and should be, she said.

The service it was offering was the same one offered to heterosexual couples, married or unmarried.

The FPA has a contract with the Health Ministry, which requires it to provide anyone with a free 15-minute consultation. More specialized counseling must be paid for. The FPA does not provide actual artificial insemination but it does offer information and health screening for those interested.

The service is being offered at an Auckland FPA clinic run by a doctor who is a lesbian, and who is raising four-year-old twins together with her partner. Dr Liz Harding was quoted as saying she thought same-sex couples made just as good parents as heterosexual couples.

The non-profit organization's more usual role includes providing what it says is "unbiased" and "non-judgmental" information on contraception, sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), pregnancy and abortion.

Graham Capill, leader of the country's Christian Heritage Party, says the FPA was obviously failing in its objective of providing sexual information to youngsters.

New Zealand has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the western world, and one of the highest STD rates, per capita, in the western world, he noted during an interview Monday.

"I would have thought FPA should have been showing better results in their mainstream areas of their so-called expertise than they currently are achieving, before moving on and spreading their limited resources even more thinly."

Apart from his concerns about funding, Capill said, the CHP objected to the idea of children growing up in a same-sex home environment.

"As a family organization [the FPA] should be acting in the best interests of the child. That's the principle of all family law in this country - the interests of the child are paramount. One has to ask, is raising a child in a homosexual environment in the child's best interest?"

Even if the "parents" may agree, the child is not in a position to express its views, he pointed out.

Capill said being raised in a same-sex home environment was "certainly second best, to say the least."

Morals

Roke of the FPA said as a body serving the whole community, the organization found it difficult to talk about morality, preferring to try to talk to people about what their morals were.

Capill said this was enlightening. "It's precisely because [the FPA] is trying to teach sex education in an amoral environment that it's failed so miserably. If they introduced some moral principles to the way they education - instead of teaching sex education as a science - I think the results would be remarkably different within a short period of time."

The mechanics of sex were simple, Capill said. But the moral issues involved and the likely effect sex can have on one's life were complex.

"If out of my firm moral belief I believe sex should be kept for marriage, then that's more likely to guide my sexual practices than teaching me to wear a condom and [what to do if] it doesn't work."

Meanwhile a court case in Australia has highlighted another potential problem down the line for same-sex couples who undergo artificial insemination.

The Melbourne Family Court is the scene of a tussle between a lesbian couple and a man who donated semen to enable one of the women to have a child. No names or other personal details have been released.

The semen donor - a homosexual - wants to see his toddler son every second weekend and on alternate holidays. The mother and her lesbian partner want to limit access rights to six hours a year.

The court has heard arguments from a psychologist that the couple may see any developing relationship between the boy and his father as a threat to their parenthood as well as to their relationship as a couple.

In their quest for acknowledgement as a lesbian couple, he said, the women may have lost sight of the boy's needs.

E-mail a news tip to Patrick Goodenough.

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