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France considers allowing IVF for single and lesbian women

17 June 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1002

France plans to lift a ban preventing single women and lesbian couples from accessing IVF and other fertility treatments, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe has announced.

Current legislation that dates back to 1994 only permits treatment using IVF, donor gametes or artificial insemination for heterosexual couples who have been married or cohabiting for at least two years. This stance has been criticised as discriminatory by equality campaigners and has resulted in women travelling to other countries to receive treatment.

'In accordance with the commitments of the President of the Republic, this bill on bioethics law authorises all women to have access to ART [assisted reproductive technologies]… the bill will be adopted by the end of July and could be debated in Parliament late September,' Philippe told the French Parliament on 12 June.

Prior to his 2017 election, President Emmanuel Macron made a campaign promise to make fertility treatments available to same-sex couples and single women. The bill was delayed several times to avoid protests by conservative campaigners but will now be considered as part of a renewed commitment to 'social justice'.

Last year, France's highest bioethics body, the National Consultative Ethics Committee, released a report supporting access to IVF and other fertility treatments for single and gay women (see BioNews 969). It said fertility treatment 'should be available to all women' regardless of relationship status or sexual orientation'.

Surrogacy is expected to remain illegal in France, as is egg freezing for social reasons. Egg freezing is currently only permitted in cases where a patient is likely to become infertile after medical treatments (such as chemotherapy), or for egg donors. 

In his announcement, Philippe said that he believed France had reached a point of being able to 'serenely, profoundly and seriously debate the issue to the exigencies of our country'. 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
France's Parliament to debate IVF for single women, lesbian couples
ABC News |  13 June 2019
France to end ban on IVF for lesbian couples and single women
The Guardian |  12 June 2019
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The first law on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) was passed in France in 1994 as part of the so-called 'bioethics legislation', which followed other European countries' legislation, such as the UK's 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology act. France's law which placed much tighter constraints on individuals access to ARTs than the UK...
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