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Victoria to consider assisted reproduction law reform

11 June 2007

By Danielle Hamm

Appeared in BioNews 411

The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) has published its final report on Assisted Reproductive Technology and Adoption. The report will now be considered by the Victorian State Government; a formal response is expected by the end of 2007. Assisted reproduction is governed in the Australian state by the Infertility Treatment Act 1995 and is regulated by the Infertility Treatment Authority (ITA).

The VLRC was commissioned to review the law surrounding assisted reproduction by the Victorian Government. Current legislation is considered outdated by developments in reproductive technology and demands for equal reproductive rights for same-sex couples. For example, currently only clinically infertile married couples, or de facto married couples, are eligible for fertility treatment. This requirement was challenged in the Federal Court in 2000; the Court found that the current legislation was inconsistent with Federal anti-discrimination laws and was therefore invalid. Despite this, women without male partners must be clinically infertile or at risk of conveying a genetic disorder, in order to be eligible for treatment in Victoria.

The report issued 130 recommendations to the Victorian Government; key proposals include:
- The welfare of the child should govern all decision-making.
- Reasons other than clinical infertility should be part of the eligibility criteria for access to assisted reproduction.
- The law should recognise the non-biological mother in a lesbian relationship as a legal parent.
- Same-sex couples and single people should be allowed to adopt.
- People who arrange legal surrogacy should be recognised as the parents of the child, including being named on the birth certificate.
- An agency with responsibility for managing donor registers should be established.
- Complex and new treatment decisions should be made by an ITA ethics committee, rather than governed by primary legislation.

The State Government has acknowledged that there are anomalies in the current law, but has declined to comment on the recommendations. It is likely that there will be political opposition to any reforms granting equal reproductive rights to same-sex couples. According the Melbourne Age, a number of politicians across Australia, led by the Prime Minister, John Howard, are opposed to gay couples becoming parents. The Victorian State opposition leader, Ted Baillieu has made it clear that he thinks IVF 'ought to be for heterosexual couples'. A full list of the recommendations can be found at the VLRC's website, the link for which is given below.

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