Legislation aimed at making it easier for lesbian couples to become parents through fertility treatment, has been slammed by the most senior Roman Catholic clergyman in England and Wales.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor expressed strong opposition to the proposed legislation contained in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill debated yesterday in the House of Lords.
The Bill includes recognition of same-sex couples as legal parents, and removes the necessity for IVF clinics to consider the "need for a father" when exercising their duty to take account of an unborn child's welfare.
In a letter to The Times, the Cardinal said: "The Bill proposes to remove the need for IVF providers to take into account the child's need for a father when considering an IVF application, and to confer legal parenthood on people who have no biological relationship to a child born as a result of IVF.
"This radically undermines the place of the father in a child's life, and makes the natural rights of the child subordinate to the desires of the couple. It is profoundly wrong."
The Cardinal called on Gordon Brown to follow the example of the Opposition parties and allow Labour members of both Houses of Parliament a free vote on the Bill.
His intervention comes as family campaigners stepped up opposition to the plans.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said the legislation would drive a "nail in the coffin" of the traditional family.