Paris protests over IVF treatment for lesbian couples

The 19th of January saw a huge protest in Paris against the government and its proposed changes to the laws around assisted reproduction in France. The new bill would allow lesbian and single women to access PMA (la procréation médicalement assistée) treatments such as IVF and artificial insemination.

According to figures from an independent body that monitors protests in France, more than 26,000 people were part of the demonstration. The pressure group Manif Pour Tous, who take a strong stand against homosexual marriage, were particularly prevalent, along with 21 other pressure groups. Members from The National Rally, formerly known as The Front National and led by far-right politician Marine Le Pen, were present at the protests.

There was a previous protest of this kind back in October when France’s National Assembly were debating the bill. Despite more than 70,000 people protesting, the bill was narrowly passed in the assembly. On the 21st of January, the bill was moved to the French Senate where it was scrutinised but passed. The bill will now move back to the National Assembly for a second reading.

Protestors gave various reasons for standing against the law. Some argue from a cost perspective, as under the new law, the French healthcare system would cover the cost of PMA for all women under the age of 43. Many of the protestors believe that this money could be better spent elsewhere in a country currently riddled with social problems, especially in the “banlieues”, the  deprived suburbs surrounding major cities.

However, the majority of the protestors were demonstrating against the law, as they feel it threatens the traditional family structure of France. Images of the protests show them holding placards saying “Where is my dad?” and “Liberty, Equality, Paternity”; a play on France’s national motto. Since lesbian couples and single women already have the right to adopt in France, protestors also say that allowing them access to PMA is unnecessary.

As the protestors marched past La Place Colette, they came across a group of anti-protestors who showed up to support the changes to the law. They denounced those part of the main protest as being homophobic, waving rainbow flags as they passed.

Changes to the laws around PMA in France have been pending for a long time. In 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron declared a change to the law as one of his manifesto pledges. Yet, due to strong opposition from religious and anti-LGBTQ+ rights groups, this change has not been swift.

Currently, many French lesbian women who wish to have artificial insemination or IVF must go abroad for treatment. Moreover, the French state often will only recognise one of the two mothers as having maternity rights.

In the UK, lesbian women have the same rights when it comes to accessing IVF and sperm donation as woman in heterosexual couples. IVF is offered on the NHS for women under 40 if they meet certain criteria and, there are many private clinics offering the treatment, as well as artificial insemination. When a child is born through IVF or other fertility treatments, both women in a lesbian relationship can have equal parental status whether they are married, in a civil partnership, or are simply in a relationship.

It seems likely that now the PMA bill has passed through the French senate, it has a chance of being passed by the National Assembly on its second reading. Perhaps, in the not so distance future, lesbian and single women in France will have the opportunity to start a family through the process of PMA; giving everyone a choice to have a family in whatever way they please.

Image: ycare via Wikimedia Commons

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