15 Oct 2019 France Takes Another Step to Legalize IVF for Lesbians
The French lower legislative body, the National Assembly, voted today in favor of a law that would legalize in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technologies for single women and lesbians. The bill, which is part of a broader bioethics bill, will go next to the French Senate for debate, as reported by U.S. News & World Report.
Under existing French law, fertility treatments such as IVF, egg-freezing or administration of fertility drugs are available only to heterosexual couples who have been married or have lived together for at least two years. Cost of the procedures would be covered by the French national health service for all women under age 43, NBC News reports.
As I wrote earlier this year, the new legislation does not address, and will do nothing to change, France’s ban on surrogacy, in effect since 1994. Nor will it do anything to help gay male intended parents, who would still have to resort to surrogacy in another country in order to become genetic parents.
Although the proposed legislation was expected to pass in the National Assembly, where President Emmanuel Macron’s party holds the majority, it has unleashed intense debate and protest, including an October 6 demonstration by many of the same forces that organized opposition to France’s legalization of same-sex marriage and adoption in 2013.
In an insightful analysis for The Washington Post, Camille Robcis, an associate professor of history at Columbia University, suggests that the conflict over IVF for single women is a symbolic proxy for the struggle between those who idealize the traditional heterosexual nuclear family model and those willing to adapt to changing family structures and gender roles. The French government’s effort to offer specific technologies to all women equally, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation, is an important first step toward equal reproductive rights.