Today, a new fertility clinic has opened its doors to business. But it will only offer its services to a select group of people: single women and lesbian couples.
Writing as the story breaks, it's not clear exactly what the reaction to the setting up of the clinic will be. But it's safe to assume that there will some activists who regard the intentional creation of fatherless families as an abomination. When, in July, the company behind the clinic launched a web-based service, ManNotIncluded.com, one family values group described the enterprise as 'revolting'.
However, these silly comments are unlikely to constitute the majority of attitudes towards the women-only clinic. Most people are pretty relaxed about same sex relationships and many people may also be relaxed about the prospect of lesbian couples becoming parents. And though any publicity is good publicity, the fact that the clinic has been so open about its services suggests a real shift in public opinion. However, this more public approach to conception won't be for everyone.
From reading its website, the clinic seems to be very keen to promote its emphasis upon information and counselling. Whilst the clinic awaits a treatment license from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, it is offering information and counselling to women seeking treatment: 'Detailed information will be available to our patients, including current law in the UK regarding sperm/egg/embryo donation, basic religious laws on the subject, [and] psychological testing of recipients and donors'. Clinic director, John Gonzalez, has accused other fertility units of being 'insensitive' to lesbian couples. Whilst this emphasis upon counselling and psychological testing is in no way insensitive, is seems to have rather a lot in common with other fertility clinics which, often to their bemusement, ask patients searching questions about social and moral matters.
ManNotIncluded.com and its associated clinic are aimed at lesbian couples who want to have a child without a social father being present but do not want to or cannot find their own donor privately. But there are others who would rather have the involvement of a known sperm donor than have a fertility doctor asking questions about their private life. What's good about this clinic is not that it is a better route to same sex parenthood, but that it gives more options to lesbian couples who want to start a family.