Emmanuel Macron, the current President of France, drafted a new bioethics bill to Parliament on July 24, 2019, that aims to consent four rounds of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for lesbian couples and single mothers alike free of charge under the country’s national health insurance. A bioethics bill is a planned reform on ethical problems and societal issues raised by progress in the fields of biology, medicine, and health that must be preceded by a public debate.
The current bioethics bill of France, last revised in 2011, states that IVF treatment can only be granted to heterosexual couples who are at reproductive years (under 43 years old) but have failed to conceive through artificial insemination and have been medically declared as infertile. It also bans surrogacy, the act of another woman agreeing to carry a child for another couple, regardless of of their sexual orientation.
In July of 2017, the Comité Consultatif National d’Ethique, a French governmental advisory council on bioethics issues, announced that it was in favor of allowing alternative reproductive medical procedures for lesbians and unmarried women who are seeking to conceive; however, the ban on surrogacy will remain. The committee is required to hold public debates on bioethics at least once every five years, should there be an absence of any planned reform -the adjustment comes at a great time indeed.
The new bill would permit women to freeze their eggs at any given time to enhance their likelihood of procreating, and end the anonymity of sperm donors across the board for all procedures — meaning that children, who wish to know who their biological father is, will have access to the donor’s information (if the donor agrees) once they reach 18 years of age.
The adjustments were presented in an effort to win back the trust of leftwing supporters who felt Macron was a president who only catered to the wealthy, but the most notable social progress move from his presidency, has stirred up controversy from France’s rightwing groups resulting in a major backlash. Many claim the changes would not only be detrimental to the states’ economy but that this will lead to more children raised without a father figure. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, assured the people that “social justice” would be at the heart of policymaking between now and the end of the centrist president’s term.
This would not be the first time conservative groups (religious or political) were opposed to the government’s decision to vouch for gay rights. The legalization of same-sex marriage in May 2013, set the tone for a new equality era and for an unprecedented ideology fight nationwide.
When it comes to assisted reproduction, France has very restrictive policies. For that reason, numerous amounts of homosexual couples and single women travel overseas to receive IVF treatment or gestational surrogacy. Belgium and Spain have approved IVF treatment for all while the United Kingdom and Portugal have legalized surrogacy. Out of the 28 European Union countries, only 18 have legal access to assisted reproduction.
Debates on the matter are expected to begin in September, and the bill is projected to pass and be in effect before the country’s next election, which will be held on April 2022.
By Cynthia Paola Bautista