Chapter 13  : Reproduction: Assistance and Control Issues 

Section 4. Readings   The Right of Lesbian Parenthood
Author:  Gillian Hamscombe

Title:       The Right of Lesbian Parenthood

Publication Information:  Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 9 (1983): 133-135

Summary by Nancy Weitzman (QCC, 2004)


Social policy and social objections are at the heart of this issue -- should lesbian women be allowed to reproduce.  Questions posed to many heterosexual professionals who set and write the theory and practice of social policy include, should lesbian women be allowed to become mothers and should they be aided by artificial insemination.


Objections to this issue can only be social objections, since no physiological studies seeking to find physical differences between lesbian and non-lesbian women have ever succeeded in demonstrating such a difference.


The social objections fall into two categories: (a) the extent to which the psychopathology of the lesbian mother is assumed or demonstrated to deviate negatively from the norm.  No studies to date have demonstrated that lesbian mothering or that the lesbian mother is psychologically inadequately equipped to mother (b) the extent to which the children of lesbian mothers are assumed to fall victim to negative psychosexual developmental influences.  There have been no studies to date demonstrating such a phenomenon.


The social objections stem from prejudice, which in turn stems from ignorance.  The medical profession is part of our social-policy making institutional life.  Medical professionals are required to form their judgments based on facts and research, not on ignorance.  Lesbians are seen as “diseased” and “not normal” and that labeling is just not acceptable.  Lesbian woman, like heterosexual women, are able to separate their sexual practice from their reproductive practice.  Lesbian women are able to conceive and bear children in the same way as non-lesbian women do.  Lesbian women can become pregnant by the alternative method of AID or by engaging in sexual intercourse with a man, like other women, often solely for the reason that they intend to  become pregnant.


Prejudice seems to follow lesbian mothers on every path. When in dispute in court with their husbands, almost all custody cases are lost by the lesbian mother to the heterosexual father.  For this reason and for other similar difficulties, young lesbian women are increasingly turning to the alternative of AID.  However, when their physicians are not willing to provide AID for them, these lesbian women are turning to sympathetic male partners for the insemination process. 


As of the writing of this article, there are over two million lesbian mothers in the United States.  These numbers are too high to ignore this controversial subject any longer.  Lesbian mothers are discriminated against by their doctors, neighbors, neighborhood affiliations and school districts.  These women and their children deserve the same care from professional caregivers as do other mothers and their children.


There are also gay men who are parents, either by virtue of a heterosexual marriage or by being involved with a partner who is a parent.  These gay men face the same difficulties and discrimination as do lesbian mothers.


There is lobbying from powerful religious and political groups aimed against the human rights of homosexual women and men, despite the lack of scientific objectivity.  The onus is therefore on the compassionate professional in our caring and medical institutions to decide how they will respond to homosexual parents and their children. 


Removing the right to reproduce is both immoral and impractical.  Neglecting the need of parents for normal support is both discriminatory and cruel.  Removing their children from the natural custody of their parents, merely on the grounds of the parents’ sexuality, is a tremendous injustice and interference, incurring painful consequences on both sides.


There is no scientific data - scientific, psychological or social – which could support the thesis that homosexual people should not have the right to reproduce and bring up their children.  Using an argument to exclude adult people from parenthood which is based solely on the definition of an individual’s sexual practice, is untenable and uncivilized.  Adult people have in their gift the right to dispose of  their own reproductive potential as they themselves think suitable.


Our society is guilty of ignoring groups of people whose existence troubles us.  Let’s come together as people and as parents and share in the responsibility to care for all those committed to parenting and for the children for whom they care.

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