Fertility treatments for gays, lesbians and unmarried persons. Is it a matter of ethics?

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In occasions we have to make decisions that will definitely impact the future of the world in many ways. Some people argued that being gay comes with genetics. There is a great article about this topic I would like to refer to (http://bit.ly/1E4rFAM). In this study Kenrick Vezina makes a pretty good work at understanding the claims of some geneticists regarding genetics homosexuality. Michael Bailey, a geneticists from Northwestern University and Kevin Mitchell from Trinity College in Dublin claimed homosexuality has a very strong genetic component linked to the Y chromosome.

For what I understood in their work there is a difference between sexual preference and sexual orientation, being the later related to the Y chromosome. Preference is whether you are attracted to males or females, however orientation is the one linked to that Y chromosome and it is moderately heritable. There are regions on this chromosome that influence the development of sexual orientation in men. They say there is no universal path to homosexuality across all people and heterosexuality is not a single default state. For such, there should be a set of other genes that work together and influence the sexual orientation. The conclusion of this work: homosexuality is not a choice, the same as heterosexuality it is not either. It should not be labeled as a disorder.

Where are those people who labeled homosexuality as a disease? And what is the reason they do not like it?

There is a story of two friends, both from well-educated backgrounds, professionals and successful. They had been in a relationship for over 10 years. It seems even stronger and solid than many heterosexual couples.

One day they made a decision. They were ready to bring a baby into their lives, to raise him/her with all the love and safety they could possible offer, and the warmth of a happy home.

They went for in vitro fertility treatment with an egg donor, and off course needed a gestational carrier. The treatment went well, and they had their first beautiful baby. She was gorgeous and bright. They could not be happier.

Years later she is a beautiful and clever girl, who ha the fortune of having the two biggest loves of her life. And they also decided to give her a sister.

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It is today common practice in fertility clinics to offer treatments to gay, lesbian and single persons. This is an era where egg and sperm donation, surrogacy and embryo donation has been considered a right to many.

Depending on the region where the fertility practice is performed ethics can be more challenged, and sometimes the access to treatment is not possible for some patients.

Many persons who oppose reproduction by single persons or gay or lesbian couples do so out of concern for the welfare of intended offspring. They argue that the best rearing environment for a child is a two-person, married, heterosexual family and are reluctant to assist or facilitate anything different. However, evidence suggest that the fears of psychological or social problems in children born with gays, lesbians or unmarried persons could not be sustained, and no harm or disadvantage has been observed.

Fertility specialists usually have doubts whether to treat same sex couples or not, much more than to treat unmarried ones (as to men and women). Most of them are motivated by ethics, religion or family background.

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine states that an over-arching ethical question is whether it is acceptable to help unmarried individuals or couples to reproduce, regardless of their sexual orientation. Several investigations have concluded that children born and raised from these couples do not show difference from children born and raised from heterosexual couples. Also it is interesting to see that in 2011, 46% of all US births were to unmarried women. This also shows that a large percentage of professional women have decided to undergo the path of parenting without the need of a male partner, in this case they use donors chosen from sperm banks. This figure it is likely to be increasing in the next years.

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Currently in the United States there is an estimated 6 to 14 million children being raised by at least one gay or lesbian parent, usually as a result of a heterosexual relation. The proportion of children born to unmarried mothers hit a record 47.5% (number of 346,595) in the UK last year. The figure has risen from 25% in 1988 and just 11% in 1979. The following data shows the number of household with children in the US:

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Data taken from Lifelong adoptions website (www.lifelongadoptions.com)

Also, demographic data show significant diversity among same-sex couples with children. The percentage by regions varies as in the South 26%, New England 24% and the Pacific States 21%. In 2000 census about 65,000 children lived with same sex parents. In 2012 110,000 live with gay parents, over a 100% increase.

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According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), there is a ethical debate that includes three important factors:

1. The reproductive interest of unmarried and gay and lesbian persons.
2. The protection of the welfare of offspring.
3. Whether professional autonomy, combined with prevailing law, provides a limit on the duty not to discriminate on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation.

For this reason, given the importance to individuals of having children, there is no sound basis for denying to single persons and gays and lesbians the same rights to reproduce that other individuals enjoy.

The American Psychological Association concluded there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation. Lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.

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Over the last years there has been a lot of controversy. Ethics committee’s reunions, multiple groups, religious groups, societies, governments, all reviewing this subject very carefully. Most of them concluded: the same rights for everyone, without discrimination.

However, still lot of controversy and discussion in some places where it is really hard to accept this equality and the refusal to change the society model. It gets even harder in religious countries where those practices can be labeled as unbearable and aberrations. Some countries still penalising and punishing homosexuality.

And the thought here is: Should we all have the same rights irrespectively from sexual orientation or decision to become a single parent? A few years will tell a story that keeps developing, and as the world has been evolving it won’t be surprised to see more equality.