France's lower house, the National Assembly, has passed draft legislation to end discrimination over women's reproductive rights.
The proposed law – allowing fertility treatment for same-sex couples and single mothers – was recently the subject of heated debate in the French parliament. The bill now moves to France's upper house, the Senate, for further discussion.
'This is about what society we want to live in and offer future generations,' said the health minister, Agnès Buzyn. 'It is about reflecting France as it is today...Same-sex parents and single parents exist today… it would be hypocritical not to see them and not to recognise them [in law].'
The bill is the first major act of social reform by President Emmanuel Macron and his centrist party. Currently, only heterosexual couples who have been married or living together for more than two years have the right to access treatments such as IVF, artificial insemination or sperm donation. As a result, same-sex couples must travel abroad for fertility treatment.
The new law would bring France in line with European neighbours Britain and Spain. Fertility treatments would be extended to same-sex couples and single mothers with costs covered by the health care system for all women under 43 years. It would also allow children conceived with donor sperm to learn the donor's identity when they turn 18 and birth certificates of children born to lesbian couples would name the 'mother and mother' instead of the 'mother and father'.
France's medical ethics committee recently expressed reservations about the bill, saying 'the deliberate conception of a child deprived of a father is not without risk for the child's development'.
However, a National Assembly member in Macron's party, Jean-Louis Touraine, pointed out that many French children are already raised by single mothers and 'all the children born in these conditions tell us how happy they are, how they haven't suffered from any great lack'.
The changes were approved by a special parliamentary commission earlier this month, and polls suggest the majority of French people are in favour. However, there has been considerable opposition from right-wing politicians and the Catholic Church, which has called for concerned citizens to demonstrate against the bill.
A protest is planned in Paris for the 6 October, and concerns have been raised that there could be a repeat of the street demonstrations and violent attacks that followed the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2013.