Modern Family: Parenthood

embryoThe common law’s emphasis on genetic parenthood has been undermined by advancements in reproductive technologies. In response, the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Act 1990 (HFEA 1990) was enacted and answered the question of legal parentage. However, as reproductive technology continued to develop, providing routes to parenthood using techniques such as embryonic screening and manipulation, it was apparent that HFEA 1990 was inappropriate. The solution was an amendment by way of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (HFEA 2008) which aimed to bring the law up to date with these advancements and set ethical boundaries.

Although HFEA 2008 sets parameters for embryo research, and reflects society’s willingness to accept that the definition of the family has changed, it still retains a focus on two parent families. It has recently been announced that the UK will be set to become the first country to allow the creation of babies using DNA from three people. In backing this IVF technique, the Government has confirmed that this legislation, which re-enforces the common law model of the family, will have to yield to the demand for the legal recognition of parenthood which will be provided by the ongoing advancements in reproductive technology.

Sharon McAvoy, a Lecturer in Law at Edge Hill University, has published one of the first academic articles which examines whether the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 is fit to manage ongoing developments in reproductive science. Her article, ‘Modern Family: Parenthood’ was published in the journal Family Law in 2013.