Friday, December 15, 2000

Herald Sun - "Lesbians better parents - study" by Jen Kelly

LESBIAN couples make better parents than heterosexuals, research suggests.

IVF pioneer Carl Wood has published a paper detailing American research of several years ago to renew the push for all lesbians to be granted rights to infertility treatment.

The studies suggested lesbian couples made better parents because their children were more tolerant of diversity and more socially skilled.

Children of lesbians were also found to suffer far less parental sexual and physical abuse and incest than their peers.

``Women are more verbally fluent than males, so with two women bringing up a child, it has a greater chance of developing better conversation skills,'' Professor Wood said yesterday. ``The children of lesbians in the studies also had a broader view of life.''

Prof. Wood's claims have fuelled fresh debate over whether gay and lesbian couples should be able to raise children.

Australian Family Association national secretary Bill Muehlenberg said the great weight of studies suggested any combination other than a man and woman -- preferably married -- harmed the child.

``These children will do less well on almost every social indicator -- school performance, suicide rates, drug involvement and criminal involvement,'' he said.

The long-term damage to children of lesbians was unknown because the phenomenon was quite new and few offspring were past adolescence.

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Lobby spokeswoman Miranda Stewart said all research suggested gay parents were as good if not better at raising children.

``What's important in parenting is loving attention and consistent support for the child,'' she said.

``Determining what is a good parent shouldn't be linked to who you have sex with.''

Prof. Wood, who published his report in Australian Medicine, said the maternal instincts of two women may provide more love and care than other couples.

Children of lesbians usually were the product of carefully selected fathers, whereas 5 per cent of offspring of heterosexual couples were the product of adulterous relationships.

In such cases, a mother's guilt often harmed her relationship with the child and the father, he said.

Under Victorian law, only lesbians who can prove they are infertile can use IVF, so most are still forced to travel to New South Wales for treatment.

Prof. Wood's claims were based on a review of 12 studies investigating more than 300 children of gay and lesbian parents.

It showed they did not differ from other children in most aspects, including psychological health, social relationships, personality and maturity.

Prof. Wood also revealed he knew of lesbians who were using ``do-it-yourself'' donor insemination kits to become pregnant because they were banned from using reproductive technology.

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