Bigotry Keeps Lesbian Couples From Using IVF In Australia

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IVFHere in the US, in vitro fertilization might keep you from working at a Catholic school, but it’s still mostly a decision between a woman and her doctor. As long as a lady can afford the high costs, she has the right to utilize IVF to have a child. Honestly, it’s a fact that I seem to have taken for granted. I just assumed that every country allowed women access to reproductive technology should they choose to go down that path.

And I was very wrong.

AdelaideNow, an Australian news agency, is reporting on serious debate going on in the Australian Parliament as to whether single women or lesbian couples should be allowed access to in vitro fertilization. Currently, only certain women are allowed to use all the medical technologies available. As the Reproductive Technology Council of Western Australia states clearly, “If you are a fertile single woman, or a fertile woman in a same sex or heterosexual relationship, you are not eligible to access in vitro fertilisation procedures. IVF is accessible in cases where a woman or a couple is unable to conceive due to medical reasons or where a couple or a woman’s child is likely to be affected by a genetic abnormality or a disease.”

Thankfully, a lawmaker in Australia is named Ian Hunter has introduced a Bill to Parliament to update these antiquated restrictions. However, he’s experiencing some debate from members of Parliament who claim that allowing single women or lesbian couples to use IVF is “undermining the fabric of society … undermining the family unit as it has traditionally been known”. One opponent, Martin Hamilton-Smith, says that he’s standing up for the father’s role in childrearing.

Listen, I’m the first to say that fathers can be an important part of a child’s life. But that doesn’t mean that women can’t raise children without them. In fact, it happens all the time, whether a mom chose to use IVF or not. And those families just are as real and important as an family with a mom and a dad.

To combat this move towards equality for all families, Mr. Hamilton-Smith seems to be relying on some age-old stereotypes of single women who would dare to parent on their own. He insinuates that they are somehow selfish for choosing to love and care for a child without the support of a man. “They can decide to just go off and have a baby using IVF … I am just going to have this child; it is all about me … I think there is something wrong about that,” he said.

Even more upsetting than the arguments used, the opposition in Australia has some powerful support. The Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide is calling on other lawmakers to denounce the Bill because he says that a child’s rights should come before an adult’s desire to be a parent. “Children are entitled, whenever possible, to know, love and be cared for by both their mother and father,” says Archbishop Philip Wilson.

What all of these opponents seem to be forgetting is that their ideal family shouldn’t have a bearing on the law and how it treats its citizens. Whether or not they agree, every woman should have the right to decide when and if she wants to carry a baby. And every woman should be able to use the medical technology available in that pursuit if she so chooses.

IVF is not an easy or cheap process. It takes dedication, energy and an emotional resilience that is frankly admirable. But it’s also a choice that each and every mother, whether she’s single, in a same-sex or hetero relationship, should get to make for themselves. The fact that lawmakers are restricting women’s abilities to have children is horrible. The idea that they’re doing it in the name of “family values” is downright appalling.

(Photo: somersault18:24/Shutterstock)