France to legalise IVF for lesbians after two-year debate

Lesbian couples and single women in France are set to celebrate a milestone on Tuesday when parliament finally passes a bill giving them access to fertility treatment for the first time.

Under current French law, only heterosexual couples have the right to access medically assisted procreation methods such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF). 

Lesbian couples and single women who want children have to travel abroad for IVF using donor sperm.

That is set to change under the new legislation introduced by President Emmanuel Macron’s government, which the National Assembly will vote on after two years of often acrimonious debate.

The reform will bring France in line with several European countries, including Belgium and Spain, currently two of the top destinations for French lesbian couples and single women looking for help to conceive.

The Inter-LGBT association said it would welcome the change, which it described as a “forceps birth” after years of foot-dragging by Macron and his Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande.

– Protests fizzle –

While campaigning for president in 2017 Macron said he was “favourable” to extending fertility treatment to lesbian and single women.

But once elected, the centrist leader repeatedly put off changing the law, mindful of the mass protests triggered by a gay marriage bill in 2013 that caught Hollande’s government off guard.

However, public opinion this time is squarely behind the move. 

A recent Ifop poll suggested 67 percent of French people supported the measure.

Calls for protests by the largely Catholic anti-gay marriage movement yielded only a tepid response.

Under the proposed law, which was first ratified by the National Assembly in October 2019 but then held up in the Senate, France’s healthcare system will cover the cost of fertility procedures for all women under 43.

The right-wing Republicans party, which has a majority in the Senate and which opposed the bill, introduced hundreds of amendments before sending the text back to the assembly for Tuesday’s final vote.

Give the dominance of Macron’s Republic on the Move party and its allies in the lower house, the ballot is seen as a mere formality.

The legislation addresses several issues arising out of the massive increase in the use of fertility treatment in recent years.

It allows children conceived with donor sperm to learn the donor’s identity when they become adults, ending the anonymity that donors in France have been guaranteed until now.

And it allows women in their thirties to freeze their eggs — a procedure currently available only to women undergoing treatment for conditions that could impact their fertility, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer.

But it stops short at legalising surrogacy, a practice used by some gay couples to have children that is still widely rejected in France.

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