France must extend its IVF laws to make it available to all families

Having a baby is a beautiful thing – something everyone should be able to experience and appreciate. However, unfortunately there are some women out there who physically cannot have a baby due to their health.  Adoption. IVF. Freezing their eggs. Artificial Insemination. Cytoplasmic Transfer. The methods are endless for women in this situation to have a child. But, sadly this is not the case for women in France.

The current legislation in France is as follows: In vitro fertilisation and other fertility treatments are currently illegal for single women and lesbian couples. Only heterosexual couples who have been married or in civil partnerships for at least two years, and whom a doctor has determined are sterile or have medical risks requiring fertility treatments are able to have an IVF treatment.

This seems so biased and illogical, particularly because France has legalised same-sex marriages. It is fundamentally regressive – if you are supporting the equality and rights of lesbians and homosexuals then why do you only give them have of the rights you have? By legalising gay marriages, many married gay couples who want to have a child cannot due to such laws.  Aside from homosexuals, why deprive single women of the chance to have a baby? There are so many women out there who may not have a significant other and they should not be excluded from something that is so natural as having a baby.

The rejection of this legislation would be a major step backwards for French society

Earlier in October, the French Parliament started debating whether to broaden the access to assisted reproductive treatments to these groups. The draft bill has been passed by the lower house of parliament. It will go before the Senate later this month. The proposed legislation would allow all women under 43 access to IVF treatment regardless of sexual orientation or relationship status. It would also give children conceived with donated sperm the right to seek out the donor’s identity when they reach the age of 18, which is currently not allowed. The new legislation would bring France in line with more liberal countries like Spain, Netherlands and the UK. 

France is becoming more liberal, introducing tax breaks for families, subsidized child care that helps mothers quickly return to work without stigma. So why is there so much opposition to this bill? France’s laws are deeply rooted with principles of laïcité, secularism – but it has deep Catholic foundations as well. The individuals in opposition to this bill are the same group who protested against the legalisation of same sex marriages earlier in 2013. In early October, more than half a million people took to the streets in protest against the bill and any reforms allowing surrogacy with the banner “Liberty, Equality, Paternity,” a riff on the motto of the French state, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”

A lot of individuals also are against this because they feel it deprives the child of their father or having a father figure in their life. Ludovine De La Rochère, the president of the Manif Pour Tous, which led the protest against France’s legalisation of gay marriage has said the reform to give women access to fertility treatments will lead to a “merchandization of humans.” 

It also taps into historic debates about the French family as a pillar of the state and much deeper questions about national identity

Aside from the religious oppositions, there are many social implications if this bill gets passed. The French republic is built on the idea of universal rights, and that groups, regardless of ethnicity or religion or sexual orientation, should not receive special treatment or status. That is also why it is illegal in France even to acknowledge the race of individual citizens. It also taps into historic debates about the French family as a pillar of the state and much deeper questions about national identity – essentially over who is able to bear French children and therefore transmit the ineffable essence that is Frenchness. 

Opponents of the reform argue that if France gives lesbians access to fertility treatments, then out of respect for equality, gay men could eventually have access to surrogacy. This is currently illegal in France and across most of Europe. “If you touch the heteronormative order, the whole social order collapses,” Camille Robcis, a French professor at the University of Columbia. I understand that the concept of the family is only perceived in the media as a father, a mother and children. But living in 2019 where there has been so much progression in terms of social equality, it seems absurd not to legalise something as innate as having children.

There is also the concept of filitation, whereby a person becoming a parent of a child is a political and legal act and an act deeply connected to the inheritance of property. The children of married couples by law must inherit their parents’ property. When France legalised gay marriages, many opponents were concerned that children of gay parents would have these inheritance rights. Every individual has a right to have a child – regardless of their gender, race, or class – it is something so natural and the way in which the biological world functions. Having the perspective that it will disrupt social order by permitting fatherless families is atavistic.

The rejection of this legislation would be a major step backwards for French society. I sincerely hope that the French Parliament passes this bill. For the sake of individuals, and for that of France.


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