The Guardian August 30, 2000

Taking issue with Julie Messenger:
Howard's dangerous values

The current debate raging over the issue of assisted fertilisation for 
single and lesbian women is complex and important. The position of John 
Howard has little to do with the "rights" of the child and a lot to do with 
imposing his own quasi-religious/social views on the population.

I would like to respond to Jenny's letter to The Guardian (August 
16, issue 1013).

The focus on the "right" of a child to both a mother and a father misses 
the point. It is the quality of the parenting rather than the number of 
participants, that is of importance.

Further, the assertion that a child needs two parents of different gender 
to be happy and well adjusted is a very ethnocentric, a very western 20th 
century view of the family which is scientifically unsustainable.

Anti-discrimination legislation exists to protect oppressed groups. To 
support the notion that these groups should only be protected from 
discrimination which does not offend the quasi-religious values of the 
government of the day only serves to highlight how intolerant we are as a 

To allow social planners to implement policies which punish women for not 
entering into monogamous, heterosexual relationships, is to allow 
capitalism and patriarchy to control and set the social agenda.

There is no law against single and lesbian women having children, so why 
should these women be denied access to public resources in pursuit of their 
desire to become parents?

Just because a woman is single or in a lesbian relationship does not mean 
she does not have a father, brothers, uncles and male friends to provide 
role models for her children.

To undergo assisted fertilisation is a long and invasive process. The 
decision to do so cannot be made in a hurry nor on a whim.

These women, regardless of whether they are married, single or in lesbian 
relationships, have been required to put more thought, more time, more 
money and more effort into becoming parents than any other group in 

If a child is that loved and that wanted, why should the marital status of 
the parent be the deciding factor in their conception?

Why should we allow public money be used to support John Howard's view of 
the traditional nuclear family when we know this is not the only way to 
organise society?

We know that this method of organising society is a fundamental tool of 
capitalism and patriarchy and as socialists we should be wary of allowing 
ourselves to be manipulated into supporting either one of these causes.

In our society single and lesbian women are considered suitable candidates 
to adopt or foster the most disadvantaged of children. These women are good 
enough to be given the burden of responsibility for our most severely 
disturbed and disabled children.

How can a single or lesbian woman be a suitable parent to someone else's 
children and at the same time be denied access to technology that would 
allow her to conceive her own child?

Why should we want to force single or lesbian women to have intercourse 
with a man she neither loves nor desires, just so she can have a child, 
when we have the technology to provide a humane and safe alternative.

John Howard's proposed legislation is not meant to ensure children have the 
love and support of both a mother and a father. It is designed to punish 
women who choose not to be defined by their relationship with a man.

To suggest the emancipation of women is responsible for the breakdown of 
the moral fibre of our society is to support the notion that women's 
oppression is an essential element to the orderly conduct of that same 

It is to argue that the society that was constructed at the expense of 
women's freedom and autonomy was an ideal that socialists should strive to 

This is to deny that capitalism and patriarchy have a role in the creation 
of community values or that capitalism and patriarchy have any 
responsibility for the current state of our society.

The basis of the proposed legislation is to provide for the discrimination 
between women on the basis of their relationship to a man.

John Howard wishes to entrench in legislation the patriarchal notion that 
women should be defined by their relationship with a man. He wishes to 
entrench this notion in the fundamental issue of parenthood.

John Howard is prepared to tolerate women who are forced to parent without 
a male partner when that male partner has rejected his responsibility. But 
when a woman makes a choice to parent without a male partner, he wants to 
introduce legislation to punish her for disturbing the natural order of 

Public resources should not be used to impose John Howard's view of a 
natural social order. Public resources should be distributed on the basis 
of need not marital status.

Women should have the right to choose when and if they become parents. 
Single and lesbian women should have the same right as married women to 
choose parenthood.

You cannot legislate community values or morals. You legislate laws and as 
laws these changes are designed to oppress and discriminate against single 
and lesbian women.

As a socialist I find this unacceptable.

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