The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Victorian Reproductive Rights Update: Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill Passed

Posted by Clem Bastow on December 5, 2008

News from Victorian Parliament late yesterday that will no doubt have Victorian women feeling a mixture of happiness and trepidation, as the Assisted Reproductive Treatment bill was passed in the Upper, and then Lower, Houses without argument.

Primarily this means it will be a lot “easier” (I use the term, in the context of assisted reproduction, loosely and with a heavy sense of irony) for single women and lesbians to conceive via IVF and other treatments, and also for women to conceive using frozen sperm from their late partners, if prior consent was recorded. It also gives the parents of children born by surrogacy, and gay partners, legal parenting rights.

Some of the other highlights of the bill may be seen as a cause for debate in some quarters:

The legislation bans people with convictions for sexual or violent offences from accessing treatment and candidates must submit to police checks. They must also be free from child protection orders.

Greens MPs Colleen Hartland and Sue Pennicuik had tried to scupper these clauses with amendments but they were defeated.

Doctors fear that delays in obtaining police checks will disadvantage some women, including cancer sufferers who may want to have their eggs harvested before starting treatment that could make them infertile.

Ms Pennicuik succeeded in pushing through another amendment that will require each baby born to a sperm or egg donor to be recorded on a central register.

Three government amendments were also passed. They require a woman to have given birth to a live child before agreeing to become a surrogate and that her own eggs are not used in the conception.

I could be being oversensitive about the first point (the police checks), but something about it feels inherently discriminatory. After all, there are plenty of people out there who blithely have multiple children, and who could well do to have a police check before doing so. But the great thing about Australia is that we don’t live in a police state, so they don’t have to submit to that process, whether we like it or not. Why should parents seeking IVF (etc) assistance need to? Are they second class citizens because they can’t have a child the “natural” way?

Surrogacy is an area I am interested in but not well-versed, so I throw it open to members of the Chorus who might be more informed than I am in that area – what do you think of the surrogacy amendments? And what do you think of the bill, full stop?

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4 Responses to “Victorian Reproductive Rights Update: Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill Passed”

  1. AP said

    The restrictions on who can be a surrogate seem a little…out of sync with the rights-based foundation (excluding the police check bit) of the bill. If a women not interested in having children wanted to be a surrogate for her infertile sister she would be disallowed because she has not previously had a live birth. I appreciate the harm minimisation intention, but it seems blanket restrictions on who can and can’t be a surrogate ignore the particular circumstances of so many people.

    I wonder if these restrictions are based on any empirical evidence of the effect of the surrogacy experience on women. If not (and I don’t know) they seem to stink of a hugely simplistic, sterotypical idea of pregnant women and their emotional responses to pregnancy.

  2. scal said

    I am thrilled that lesbians and single women now have access to IVF … but I think that it should be available on Medicare only if they are physically (as opposed to politically or circumstantially) infertile.

    I mentioned this to a friend and he was furious with me, and said that sperm used in IVF go through all kinds of checks that sperm-bank sperm doesn’t, and that that is the main appeal for lesbians. If that’s the case, maybe sperm-bank sperm should be better tested.

  3. [...] Victorian Reproductive Rights Update: Assisted Reproductive … [...]

  4. Glen said

    Most Victorians, the writer included, would support initiatives to protect at risk Children and therefore some suggestions may be helpful. Basic Internet research identified that Australian Politicians and Beauracrats may pose considerably more risk to their children than IVF couples. To support this proposition the following are listed:

    Milton Orkopoulos , 2008 NSW Labour 13 years detention, 28 Child Sex Offences
    Keith Wright, 1993 Qld Labour, 11 years, Child Sex Offences
    Bill D’arcy, 2000, Qld Labour, 11 years, Child Sex Offences
    Terry Martin, 2009, Tasmania, Court hearing in progress, Child Porn
    Willian Stuart Brown, 2000, Ausaid/Australian Embassy Jakarta Child sex offences
    Peter Hollingworth allowed a known Paedophile priest to continue working, whilst Archbishop of Brisbane – latter resigned as Governor General as a result of the scandal.

    In view of this, it is fair for the population to demand that:

    1) The Police Clearance and working with children requirements for IVF patients be removed, or that this requirement be introduced for all Victorians of reproductive age.

    2) Politicians should subject themselves to special scrutiny and police clearances before being allowed to have children on the basis that there appears to be considerable more risk of children being abused by politicians than IVF parents.

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