France’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed a law that will allow single women and lesbians access to medically assisted reproduction for the first time.
The final vote on the wide-ranging bioethics law, presented by French President Emmanuel Macron’s government, had been much awaited by LGBT rights groups, who had pushed for the reproduction measure since France legalised same-sex marriage in 2013.
It was adopted with 326 votes in favour, 115 against.
The new law will expand access to fertility treatments such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF), currently reserved only for infertile heterosexual couples.
In France, fertility treatments are free — and once the law passes this would also include lesbian couples and single women.
Macron has described the vote as a "major achievement" that "shows that society was ready to take this step towards more equality," government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.
"Through this law, we recognise all French families, we embrace the richness of parental forms, whether heterosexual, homosexual or single-parent, we proclaim their equality and we say loud and clear that only love for children counts," Attal added, promising that "the implementing decrees will be taken very quickly.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said French authorities are getting ready to apply the new law as quickly as possible so that the first children could be conceived by the end of the year.
The vote marks the end of a protracted, two-year debate in parliament. The conservative majority in the Senate repeatedly rejected the measure, but the lower house of parliament, where Macron’s centrist party has a majority, has the final say. The National Assembly has already approved the draft bill three times and is to definitively adopt it later Tuesday.
French LGBT rights groups lobbied for the measure after France legalised same-sex marriage under then-President Francois Hollande, following months of mass protests by conservative and Catholic groups.
“Finally,” Matthieu Gatipon, spokesperson of the Inter-LGBT association said, welcoming a “long-awaited progress.”
“We are satisfied that this is getting done ... but this has been a painful birth,” he said, expressing frustration that it took so long to get to the final vote of the law.
Gatipon said it has been hard on French women who had to delay for years their plans to have a baby, and others who had to pay expensive fees to go abroad to countries where such procedures are available, such as Spain and Belgium.
The new law does not address France’s ban on surrogacy arrangements in which a woman carries and delivers a baby for someone else.