Friday, December 5, 2008

ABC News - "Mixed Response to Victoria's IVF Law Changes" by Simon Lauder

Lesbian couples and single women will soon be able to have babies using IVF treatment in Victoria, but some women and doctors say the new laws themselves are discriminatory because they include mandatory criminal background checks for prospective mothers.

There was celebration in the Upper House of Victoria's Parliament as the votes were counted last night.

The Lower House gave the Government's Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill the final tick of approval soon after.

It means Mikaela Olijnyk and Naomi Paton can now have the family they've planned together.

"One of us has medical infertility and the other doesn't and we're both wanting to carry a child with two children related through the same donor in a way that would allow our family to be related to each other," Ms Olijnyk said.

"We fly to Perth on Wednesday to meet with a potential donor and start the negotiations," Ms Paton said.

Under the old laws, single women and lesbians had to be clinically infertile to receive IVF treatment in Victoria and even then they weren't allowed to use donor sperm from a clinic.

Natasha and Melissa had to go to great lengths to conceive their son Caius.

"We had to travel interstate every month to track ovulation and travel interstate every month in order to access donor sperm. We couldn't have access to any medical assistance at all in Victoria because I'm not infertile," Natasha said.

"I felt like we weren't considered good enough to have children, that our family is not recognised and not valued because we're not straight."

Victoria's Attorney-General Rob Hulls says the states laws are no longer in breach of the Federal Sex Discrimination Act.

"There are kids that are being born to all sorts of arrangements and they don't have appropriate legal protections and so this legislation ensures that children - regardless of the arrangements under which they've been born - are protected," he said.

"This legislation was always about kids and ensuring that children born into same sex families or as a result of surrogacy arrangements are not discriminated against."

Background checks

There is a condition in the new laws which is proving controversial - mandatory criminal background checks. The medical director of Ballarat IVF, Dr Russell Dalton, says that will delay fertility treatment in some urgent cases.

"If we have to wait for the processing of police checks prior to undertaking fertility treatment for a person who for example has breast cancer at the age of 28 and is embarking upon invasive and aggressive chemotherapy, that person is going to be significantly disadvantaged. There's no doubt about that," Dr Dalton said.

Ms Paton doesn't think she should have to pass a criminal check to get access to fertility treatment.

"We don't need the police to tell us whether we're suitable to be parents. I think it's actually quite insulting," she said.

Mr Hulls says the requirement is meant to protect children and it's not discriminatory.

"We believe we have a responsibility to kids that are born of these arrangements and as a result we believe that police checks are appropriate," Mr Hulls said.

"We don't believe it will cause any inconvenience and it will ensure that any possible, unacceptable risk of harm at least can be addressed through police checks."

Some women aren't concerned about the background checks, including Vicky who has already become a mother through IVF.

"It can't be any more invasive than the vaginal probes that you have to have every second day for scanning," she said.

Based on a report by Simon Lauder for The World Today on December 5.

[Link: Original Article ]

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