France’s lower house of parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill that aims to give single women and lesbian couples legal access to in vitro fertilization, egg freezing and fertility medication.
The assisted reproduction measures are part of a broader bioethics bill voted by the National Assembly, the lower house, where French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has a majority. The bill passed 359-114. It must still go to the Senate for debate.
The new legislation will mean that two bioethical cornerstones of former French ART regulation – a diagnosis of infertility and the requirement of marriage or partnership – will now be removed in favour of a more liberal framework for treatment. Thus, single and lesbian women will be eligible for sperm donation or even IVF treatment.
The new legislation will also mean that ‘fertile’ women will now be able to freeze their eggs for later use as some kind of biological insurance against age-related infertility.
France’s health care system would cover the cost of the assisted reproduction procedures for all women under 43.
French law currently allows in vitro fertilization and related procedures only for infertile heterosexual couples. Many ineligible French women travel abroad to undergo IVF treatment.
Lesbian couples, single women or both already have legal access to medically assisted reproduction in 18 of the European Union’s 28 countries.
France’s pending legislation also would allow children conceived with donated sperm to find out the donor’s identity upon demand when they reach age 18, a change from France’s current strict donor anonymity protections.
‘This new law responds to a societal demand,’ health minister Agnès Buzyn told Le Parisien newspaper. ‘Family patterns have changed. All the studies now show that children raised in homosexual couples or by single mothers do not have any particular problems as distinct from children raised in more traditional types of family situations.’