11 July 2011
ByAppeared in BioNews 615
An Australian man is seeking to overturn a ruling barring him and his partner from accessing IVF on the grounds of his previous conviction in 2003 for having sex with a 16-year-old student while he was employed as a teacher's aide.
The man, know only as ABY, said he is being denied basic human rights because he is not allowed to access the treatment. He and his wife had started IVF before he was arrested and planned to resume it when he was released from prison. He was jailed for three years with two years suspended.
Under Victorian law, convicted sex-offenders who want IVF must appear before a review panel before treatment is granted. The panel, however, denied the couple access to treatment on the grounds of ABY's previous conviction.
The Victorian state Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act requires all IVF users to undergo police and background checks before they are offered treatment and operates a presumption against treatment for couples where either partner has been convicted of a sexual offence. The law was introduced after the Victorian Law Reform Commission recommended barring people convicted for sexual or violent offences from IVF on the basis that they presented a potential risk.
During the hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, forensic psychiatrist Dr Danny Sullivan said the 33-year-old man had 'age appropriate relationships' throughout his adult life and, in his view, was not a paedophile or someone with an unnatural interest in post-pubescent girls.
Dr Sullivan said it was 'extremely unlikely' ABY would have difficulty discerning the boundary between parent and child and there were 'no deficits that would look like ABY posed a risk to his own children'.
ABY said he was sorry for what he did, but it was wrong to deny him the chance to have children. 'Every person deserves the right to have a family', he said. 'People make mistakes. It's just very trying'.
The couple's solicitor, Bianca Moleta, said the review panel had breached her clients' rights. 'By virtue of the Charter of Human Rights the decision reach by the panel is unlawful', she said. 'As they're a public authority they need to consider human rights and in the decision and they didn't do that'. Moleta says the panel breached his human rights to health as well as the right not to be punished twice.
However, Victorian Opposition health spokesman, Gavin Jennings, has defended the review panel. 'We have question marks about whether you would be a good parent because you have a sexual conviction', he told ABY. The tribunal has also heard that ABY had a history of drug and alcohol dependence.