France is poised to pass a law allowing single women and lesbian couples to get fertility treatment, which has always been reserved for heterosexual couples.
The National Assembly vote follows two years of heated debate and demonstrations by groups opposed to this expansion of reproductive rights, reports the BBC.
For decades, desperate French women have been forced to go to clinics in Belgium and Spain for fertility treatment, which can be very expensive.
The new law will bring France into line with 10 other EU countries and the UK.
Besides Belgium and Spain, the 10 are: Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden. Outside the EU, Iceland and Norway have similar legal provisions.
A recent Ifop opinion poll found 67% of French respondents are in favour of the new law.
There was resistance to it in the French Senate, and the draft acquired more than 1,500 amendments, but the National Assembly has the final say.
There was also resistance in the streets, with political and religious conservatives demanding the bill be scrapped.
“The family, with a mother and a father, is an ecosystem that needs protecting,” Christian Kersabiec, 68, told the AFP news agency at a protest in 2019, reflecting the opinion of many ordinary Catholics.
Many of those demonstrating against the current law also protested against legalising gay marriage way back in 2013.
However, polls suggest that acceptance of less traditional ideas of family structures has grown since then.
The new law is expected to pass as President Emmanuel Macron’s party – La République en Marche (LREM) – plus its allies has a working majority in the lower house.
The law will provide access to various fertility procedures, notably in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and artificial insemination, for all women under the age of 43, with all costs covered by the French health service.
Under the new law, children conceived with donor sperm will be able to learn the donor’s identity when they become adults, removing the current French anonymity for sperm donors.
In 2018, there were over 25,000 babies conceived through medically-assisted procreation in France, after nearly 150,000 attempts, according to l’Assurance-maladie, the country’s national health insurance body. That amounted to 3.3% of births.
The new law specifies that both the birth mother and her partner are to be named as the child’s parents on the birth certificate.
Magali Champetier, a lesbian mother quoted by La Dépêche newspaper, said, “This law comes as a relief. We’ve been waiting a long time for it, and it’s already too late for many women because of their biological clock.”
Her partner had to go to Spain in order to conceive two children through MAP.
She told La Dépêche, “I had to get married and wait a year before I could become the legal parent. This law will remove that stress, and moreover the procedure will be free, unlike the treatment abroad.”