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Former Bishop of Rochester criticises new 'designer babies' NHS sperm bank

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, a former chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's ethics committee, the UK's fertility watchdog has criticised a decision by the NHS to fund a new fertility clinic that offers treatment to couples including those in same-sex partnerships.

The former Bishop of Rochester said the announcement raised some important questions about the "future of our children" and "the role of men in our families and communities."

The National Gamete Donation Trust (NGDT), in partnership with Birmingham Women's Hospital, has been awarded £77,000 by the Department of Health (DoH) to provide the service, which will launch in October.

According to the Government, the National Sperm Bank is a regulated institution that will help deal with the shortage of sperm donors in the UK, and will give people better access to donors.

It claims this will help reduce people having to go abroad, get sperm from abroad, or make their own unregulated arrangements in the UK. It will help couples who can't otherwise have a family.

Lesbian couples will also be able to have treatment at HFEA licensed clinics using the donated sperm.

Writing in the 'Mail on Sunday',Bishop Michael said: "Research shows that children are best brought up in families where a mum and dad are present. The role of fathers in the nurture of their children is unique and cannot be replaced by other so-called 'male role-models' or, indeed, an extra 'mother'.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "The National Sperm Bank will benefit all patients who need these services."

Bishop Michael also raised concerns over the ability of prospective parents being able to 'choose' the type of baby they wanted, he said: "This bank will allow women to choose from profiles of donors, which will include educational attainment and 'attractiveness' criteria, raising the spectre of 'designer babies', born to the parents' specifications.

What if the process of pregnancy and birth 'interferes' with the desired outcomes? Will such babies then be rejected?"

It's understood that for the first time, those from ethnic minority backgrounds will be able to choose from a range of culturally matched donors.

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