This year in June, France passed a new bioethics law. This law allows fertility treatment for all women under the age of 43 from now on. In this case, “all” women means that in the future, lesbian couples and single women will also be allowed to make use of the technical apparatus of reproductive medicine free of charge – because the treatment costs will be covered by health insurance. As was to be expected, the waves of public statements ran high, some – such as the Minister for Europe and Commissioner for Franco-German Cooperation, Michael Roth (SPD) – called it a “historic step”, while representatives of the conservative camp – such as the Parisian archbishop and former physician Michel Aupetit – lamented a paradigm shift, which degraded the doctor to a service provider of individual wishes and medicine to cater to a market that short-circuits the intimate wish for offspring with a highly developed technology in order to satisfy its financial interests. The nostalgia of a reactionary vox populi also made itself heard, of course. They took the amendment as an opportunity to warn once again of a “generation without a father”.
After all, it wasn’t the “lost father” that aroused my interest in this legal precedent, nor was it the complaint that children are now only seen as products – as reported in the FAZ – for were they ever anything other than the result of a spontaneous lust, the object of a narcissistic supposed fulfillment, the guarantor of an economic improvement, the wager of a new life against the certainty of a coming death?
Beyond all moral judgements, from which we can all too rarely expect any good, the desire for a child is a possible part of our being and this being does not simply “make” a child in the clumsy act of animal copulation, rather it “builds” it with words. And in the best case, these are words of love, words of love to another with whom I want this new life.
But this is the analytically interesting and delicate point of the new law. It is not so much the father who may now be lost, whose biological role does not come into play, but rather his social function that is in jeopardy. What may now be lost as novum is the Other with whom I wrap this new life in a garment of language, whose fabric is woven from two different threads – weft and warp. Two singular desires create the texture of a child. And these two, no matter how prima vista they may be, are never identical. There are always two. There is always another concrete one whose desire for a child is not mine and even if it may sound like it is the same as mine, it is not. There is this other whose desires will interfere with mine. It takes two crocodiles (to extend Lacan’s crocodile metaphor and not put the amphibious greed solely on the mother) – whether they love each other or not – but they have to be able to get in each other’s way so that the little crocodile will not suffer too much damage from its parents’ narcissistic desires.
When Lacan brought the father into play as a guarantor and the phallus as a symbolic weapon against a greedy mother’s love, nuclear family relations were still largely Oedipally secured. This is no longer the case. Nowadays it is less significant whether it is the man or woman who takes the place of the crocodile or of the one who puts the phallus in its mouth than the question of who is allowed to disturb a crocodile while it is eating?
Shortly after the law had been launched in France, a woman complained to her analyst that, at her mother’s request, there would be no burial of her recently deceased father, but rather his ashes should be scattered somewhere. A practice that has meanwhile also gained popularity in Austria in regard to the idea of a “final resting place”.
There was supposed to be no trace of her father, no sign, no stone to call him by name, no place of remembrance. Analysis helped her to prevent this second “complete death” of her father by disrupting her mother’s plan of erasure.
Into life without disturbance and out of it again without a trace? This would close a circle that wants to prevent the presence of the Other. But let us be a little more courageous and call out to him: “Come here! Please disturb me!