French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to let single women and lesbian couples receive fertility treatment received a boost Tuesday with an ethics body recommending they be given the same access as heterosexual couples.
During campaigning for president this year Macron had said he was favourable to giving single women and lesbian couples access to assisted reproductive technology (ART), currently only available to heterosexual couples.
Anticipating resistance from conservatives, Macron said he would wait for the National Consultative Ethics Committee — which has been weighing up the issue for three-and-a-half years — to issue a recommendation, “in order to build the largest possible consensus”.
In its highly anticipated announcement Tuesday the committee said it “recommends that ART be opened up to female couples and single women”, one of the report’s authors, Frederic Worms, told reporters.
Such a move would help “alleviate the suffering caused by infertility resulting from individual orientations,” he added.
France is one of several European countries with strict rules on who can access fertility treatment.
Any move to expand access is likely to encounter fierce resistance from the Catholic hardliners who brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the street in 2013 against the legalisation of gay marriage and adoption.
Reacting to the committee’s finding the conservative Manif Pour Tous (Demonstrations for All) group behind the 2013 protests warned any further change in the law would be a “major error”.
The LGBT and feminist group Effrontees (Unashamed) however welcomed the recommendation and said it hoped it would lead to a change in France’s “discriminatory” legislation.
The committee also considered whether France should lift a ban on surrogacy, whereby a woman carries a child for another couple, often a gay couple — a practice also banned in Germany, Italy, Spain and several other European countries. Here, the committee argued in favour of the status quo.
“Believing that there is no such thing as ethical surrogacy the committee is favourable to maintaining and strengthening the ban,” another of the report’s authors, Frederique Kuttenn, said.
An Ifop poll published Saturday to coincide with Pride celebrations around Europe showed 60 percent of the French in favour of giving lesbian couples access to fertility treatment.
By contrast, only 44 percent were in favour of allowing gay men to use surrogate mothers to have a child.
By Brigitte CASTELNAU, Amélie BAUBEAU