New laws that grant lesbian couples and single women equal access to IVF have been passed by MPs voting in Victoria’s Parliament. The Assisted Reproductive Treatment bill was approved by 47 votes to 34, in a three day debate that lasted in the early hours. It will now be debated in the Upper House before it can become law.
MP’s were given a free conscience vote on the bill, which included measures to permit the posthumous use of gametes – such as using a dead partner’s sperm – with many opposing the bill on grounds of the welfare of the child. Labor MP Marlene Kairouz, who voted against the bill, told MPs: ‘Bringing a child into the world without ever having the opportunity to meet both its parents shows disregard for its wellbeing, its needs and dignity.’
The reform comes after a four-year review conducted by the Victorian Law Reform Commission in to the current artificial reproductive technology (ART) laws in Victoria contained in the Infertility Treatment Act, which the new bill will repeal. ‘This is about updating our laws, bringing them into the 21st century but ensuring that the interests of children born of these arrangements are absolutely paramount,’ said the Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, before last week’s debate. It will also mean Victorian laws meet federal discrimination legislation by ensuring all women have equal access to fertility treatment. At present, lesbians and single parents have to travel to other states to receive fertility treatment. The bill also give greater parental rights to gay couples and parents of surrogate children.
Rainbow Families Council spokeswoman Felicity Marlowe expressed her support for the proposed measures. ‘What we’d be really wanting to see is that people understand that the spirit of this bill is that the rights and best interests of children are upheld and we believe that voting in favour of it in the upper house will ensure that our children are not second class citizens,’ she said.
The Attorney-General dubbed the bill ‘good reform’. He said, ‘When we’re dealing with social reform and particularly, obviously, conscience votes there are always passionate views that are held on both sides of the house.’
Posted by: Goral Gandhi, MSc
Rotunda – The Center For Human Reproduction