Conservatives Mobilize After French Gov’t Proposes State-Funded IVF for Same-Sex Couples

Fayçal Benhassain | August 8, 2019 | 8:28pm EDT
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Ludovine de La Rochère, president of Manif Pour Tous, at a 2016 demonstration against state-funded IVF for lesbian couples. (Photo by Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images)

Paris ( – A proposal to provide state-funded in-vitro fertilization treatment for lesbian couples and single mothers is being welcomed by LGBT groups, but conservatives are vowing to take to the streets in opposition.

The proposal is part of a new draft bioethics law, presented by the government last month and due to be considered by parliament after the traditional August summer break.

It provides for IVF, also known as medically-assisted procreation (MAP), to be available for lesbian couples and unmarried women, to be funded through social security, like other medical procedures. Health care in France is largely covered by the state.

The government is expecting an additional 2,000 applications for IVF each year, over the approximately 150,000 attempts now made.

The proposed legislation also deals with genetic tests, embryo research, issues relating to sperm donation, and the conservation of oocytes (immature eggs) – all measures under strict medical control.

The IVF/MAP proposal is particularly contentious, given debates over the importance of the traditional family.

“Family patterns have changed,” said Health Minister Agnès Buzyn, a physician. “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.”

(Contrary to that claim, in recent decades numerous studies have highlighted in particular the importance of an involved father in healthy child development.)

“Children have the right to have a father and a mother and this law creates children without a father,” Jordan Bardella, vice-president of the far-right National Rally party, told LCI television last month.

He said the party, led by Marine Le Pen, would “obviously” oppose the IVF/MAP proposal.

“All that is technologically possible is not always humanly desirable, and sometimes for a society to work, it is necessary to know how to pose limits.”

National Rally has called for a referendum on the issue.

Manif Pour Tous (“The Protest for Everyone”) is the largest group of associations in France opposed to same-sex marriage. Its president, Ludovine de La Rochère, called the proposals “a political mistake and a social injustice.”

“The movement is ready to mobilize, in the long term,” she said, and recalled massive demonstrations led by the organization in 2013 in opposition to same-sex marriage legislation.

Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit, a former doctor, voiced concerns in an RTL radio interview that the proposed legal changes could pave the way to a situation where a child’s sex is chosen by prospective parents. (In IVF the sex of each available embryo is identifiable, enabling parents to select the gender of their child.)

“Choosing the sex of the child is not provided for by law but it exists [in other countries],” he said. “And if it exists somewhere else, it may come to France too.”

Jean-Louis Touraine, a lawmaker in President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic in Motion party who was involved in drafting the legislation, told media earlier he expects demonstrations will take place against the proposals, “and I respect that, but I do not fear them.”

LGBT groups are welcoming the proposed legal changes.

“This is really good news,” said Isabelle Guéguen of the Association of Parents and Future Gay and Lesbian Parents. “This evolution shows the end of complete, discriminatory and unjustified inequality.”

Catherine Michaud, president of the GayLib association, said debates on the IVF/MAP issue must not be allowed to provide an opportunity for “obscurantists” to revive the issue of same-sex marriage, which France legalized in 2013.

The bill seeks to ban surrogacy for same-sex couples, which Buzyn said the government opposes on the grounds it raises “the issue of marketing women’s bodies.”

It also puts an end to the anonymity of sperm donors, who will have to agree to reveal their identity, if their children want to know their biological father once they reach the age of 18.

Another contentious aspect of the legislation is a requirement that a child conceived via IVF/MAP have that information appear on his or her birth certificate.

LGBT activists and some doctors label that requirement discriminatory, and worry that it will lead to the stigmatization of those children.

(Patrick Goodenough contributed to this report.)

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