Medically Assisted Reproduction: France grapples with who should benefit

An in vitro fertilisation embryologist works on a petri dish at the Create Health fertility clinic in south London.
An in vitro fertilisation embryologist works on a petri dish at the Create Health fertility clinic in south London. Copyright AP Photo/Sang Tan, Archive
Copyright AP Photo/Sang Tan, Archive
By Euronews
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French senators say medically assisted reproduction should only be free for single women or lesbian couples if they're infertile.


In France, the government's bioethics bill and its emblematic measure to widen out the availability of Medically Assisted Reproduction (MAR) to all women, including singles or those in a lesbian couple, is the subject of fierce debate.

Thousands of opponents of the bill demonstrated in Paris on January 19, in a protest organised by the right-wing conservative "Marchons, enfants" collective comprising "La Manif pour Tous which, in 2012, gathered hundreds of thousands in the streets to oppose same-sex marriage.

Parliament, whose majority is centrist, passed a first draft of the bill in October but the Senate, held by a right-wing majority, sought to impose some limits last week, rekindling the debate.

Majority of the French back increased LGBTI rights

The European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association distinguishes between two types of MAR:

  • MAR for all couples where couples, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity of those involved, encounter no legal obstacle to fertility treatments.
  • MAR for all singletons, which covers cases where fertility treatment is legally possible for individuals, regardless of sexual identity and/or gender identity.

"Eighty-five per cent of French people agree with the statement that 'gays, lesbians and bisexuals should have the same rights as heterosexual," Katrin Hugendubel, director of advocacy for ILGA-Europe, told Euronews citing the latest Eurobarometer survey.

She added that when "the new bioethics law finally comes into force, France will join the majority of EU member states which already guarantee access to these insemination practices."

Eighteen EU countries already allow MAR for single women. Fewer — 11 — have opened it up to all couples.

'Manufacture of fatherless children'

Some French senators say they oppose extending MAR to single women and lesbian couples because they fear a "slide" towards surrogacy.

They also say it raises questions over parenthood with Jean-Pierre Leleux, a senator for the right-wing Les Republicains party, equating opening up MAR to "the manufacture of fatherless children" while Alain Richard, a senator from the centrist La Republique En Marche, said he feared the "artificialisation of the creation of life".

Senators, like MPs before them, rejected 'post-mortem insemination' which allows women to undergo MAR despite the death of their partners but they included an amendment whereby only infertile women would have the procedure fully reimbursed by the social security welfare system.

Hugendubel said she regretted that opponents of the PMA wanted to "once again put an end to equal access" to these procedures and did so "[they are actively advocating] to perpetuate discrimination against women. for certain people in society".

For her, "this new legislation is an important step towards guaranteeing equality for all."

The advocacy director of ILGA-Europe is particularly against organisations that, on the street or on social networks, continue to press against the opening of the PMA to lesbian couples or single women.

"While groups like the Manif pour Tous present themselves as a citizen movement that speaks for the people on the street, the truth is that it is a powerful organisation with plenty of resources to fight against the sexual, reproductive and human rights of LGBTI people," she added.

The draft has now gone back to MPs who will vote on the second reading on February 4.

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