PARIS (Reuters) – France’s parliament adopted legislation on Tuesday that will allow single women and lesbians access to in-vitro fertilisation, unwinding some of Western Europe’s strictest rules governing medically assisted pregnancies.
Medically assisted reproduction is widely available to all women in neighbouring European countries such as Britain, Spain and Belgium, but in France it has for years fed into a broader debate about gay rights and the commercialisation of healthcare.
“We’re here to vote on a law underpinned by freedom, equality, solidarity and dignity,” Coralie Dubost, a lawmaker from the ruling La Republique en Marche party, told the assembly.
The measure is part of a broader bioethics bill that also ends anonymity for sperm donors, who will have to agree to having their identity revealed if their children ask to know their biological father when they turn 18.
In a final vote in the lower house, which followed a bumpy passage through parliament’s two chambers, lawmakers approved the legislation by 326 votes to 115. The law will take effect once signed by the executive.
Under existing French law, IVF is available only to opposite-sex couples, and only for reasons of infertility or the risk of transmission of a disease or medical condition to the child or either parent.
The legislation is a reflection of how predominantly Catholic France has become more socially liberal since gay marriage was legalised in 2013. An IFOP poll showed two thirds of French people support the legislation.
The conservative-led Senate had sought to block single women and lesbians from being reimbursed by French social security for medically assisted pregnancies. This was overturned by the lower house where President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party and its allies have a majority.
Appealing to the lower house to reject the bill, independent lawmaker Emmanuelle Menard said: “A child is born from a mother and a father. A child needs a mother and father.”
(Writing by Richard Lough, additional reporting Tangui Salaun, Editing Dominique Vidalon and Angus MacSwan)