France’s highest court advises lesbian couples have right to IVF
France’s highest court was asked to look at whether the state could legally continue withold the right to IVF from women in same-sex couples or single women, after a drawn-out battle for access.
IVF has been available in France since the 1980s, as part of standard healthcare provision. However, at present it is exclusively available for man-woman couples who can prove that they are married or have cohabited with joint finances for two or more years.
Single women (or women who do not share finances with their partner) and same-sex couples are unable to qualify for IVF, an issue that has grown extremely contentious during the debate to reform it.
Almost exactly a year ago, an ethics committee ruled that female same-sex couples and single women should be able to access IVF which led to LGBT+ supportive President Emmanuel Macron backing legislative change to formalise that access.
The right to IVF for same-sex female couples and single women was a campaign promise for Macron – who won over anti-LGBT Front Nationale candidate Marine Le Pen, who had vowed to turn back same-sex marriage.
The Macron government had hoped to bring legislature in by 2018. However, right-wing opposition on the issue remains strong and repeats of protests in 2014 against the change have been threatened.
Today’s change represents the last barrier to the legislation being put through being removed, as France’s highest court – the Conseil d’Etat – have ruled that there is no constitutional or legal reason that single women or women in same-sex partnerships can be denied IVF assistance to conceive.
At present, although IVF is free in France for all couples eligible, the burden of proving eligibility is extremely high – from providing extensive evidence of being a couple to invasive tests to show one of the couple is infertile.
This new report, by the high court’s bioethics committee, will be delivered to the government on Friday with the summary released so far stating that there are no constitutional or legal barriers to same-sex female couples or single women accessing assisted fertility.
Although by no means signalling an end to controversy, with surprising levels of resistance to LGBT+ rights in France compared to other Western European countries, the legislation would move IVF to being a treatment for a woman specific to her body rather than for a couple.
At present, there is no provision for assistance in surrogacy or access to egg donation for same-sex male couples.