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Everyone in France Should Have a Right to a Family

New Law Would Let Lesbian Couples, Single Women Get In Vitro Fertilization

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn gives a speech to introduce the debate on a bill that would give single women and lesbian couples access to in-vitro fertilization, at the National Assembly, in Paris, September 24, 2019.  © 2019 AP Photo/Thibault Camus

Update: On June 29, 2021, the French Parliament adopted the new bioethics law with 326 votes for and 115 against. The first article of the bill allows lesbian couples and single women access to medically assisted procreation.

All women in France are one step closer to achieving equality when it comes to family planning.

Despite criticism from conservative and religious groups, the National Assembly last month approved a bill that will allow single women and lesbian couples to access the same medical help for having children as heterosexual couples, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).

These procedures are currently only legal for infertile heterosexual couples – meaning that lesbian couples and single women who want children can’t even pay to have the procedures done privately in the country. Many end up traveling abroad to get the costly reproductive procedures.

The bill, which will go to the senate on October 15, is expected to pass next year.

The bill has sparked religious and political opposition, reminiscent of 2013 protests against same-sex marriage, with opponents stoking fears that lesbian parents and single mothers will undermine traditional notions of the family. Supporters say the existing law is unfair because it arbitrarily privileges some families over others, and discriminates against people based on sexual orientation or marital status.

International human rights law protects the rights to privacy, to non-discrimination, and to the highest attainable standard of health. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provides that “[t]he widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family.”

Same-sex marriage has been legal in France since 2013. Earlier, in 2008, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a lesbian woman could adopt children.

Within the European Union, 18 out of 28 countries allow for single women, lesbians, or both to pursue medically assisted reproduction. European countries should allow all women the right to have a family and provide a route to parenthood, in addition to adoption.

The proposed law would mean the French healthcare system would cover up to four rounds of IVF for eligible women. For lesbian couples, the birth certificate of the child would read “mother and mother” instead of “mother and father.”

At the end of the day, whether married or single, lesbian or heterosexual, all parents will be taking care of their kids, accompanying them to school, and helping with homework, no matter what route they took to get there. 

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