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Quebec Government denies claim that IVF bill will unfairly impact upon gay couples

Quebec Government denies claim that IVF bill will unfairly impact upon gay couples

A representative for Dr Gaétan Barrette, Quebec Minister for Health, has strongly denied to GSN that a bill that the Liberal Party minister has sponsored will unfairly target same-sex couples.

Bill 20 was introduced to the Quebec Parliament on 28 November. The controversial legislation is designed to, ‘promote access to family medicine and … amend various legislative provisions relating to assisted procreation’.

Although Bill 20’s introduction states that it aims to improve ‘access to family medicine’, it has been criticized more for the restrictions it places on IVF services.

Firstly, it says that it would become illegal for physicians to offer IFV to any women over the age of 42. In the US, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends a maximum age of 55 for IVF.

Secondly, the bill says that anyone who needs an egg or sperm donation to proceed with IVF must pay to undergo a ‘psychosocial’ assessment by a psychologist or social worker to establish if they will be fit parents.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Stefania Carsley of McGill’s University Faculty of Law, says, ‘Quebeckers who become pregnant without medical assistance are not required to undergo – and pay for – psychosocial assessments to determine whether they ought to be permitted to be parents.

‘Why then does the government seem to presume that those Quebeckers who use donated genetic material might be unfit to parent?’

‘Ultimately, these new laws will also disproportionately affect same-sex couples and single parents who, unlike opposite-sex couples, will necessarily need to use donated genetic material in order to build their families.’

Another issue for same-sex couples wishing to undergo IVF would be the bill’s demand that a ‘physician must make sure that an in vitro fertilization activity has been preceded, as applicable, by a period of sexual relations.’

Bill 20 has been criticized by others for proposing to cut IVF funding – which could save the province up to $50 million a year – and increasing the number of patients that doctors see each year.

‘The Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec is stupefied and shocked by the contents of Bill 20,’ said Dr. Louis Godin, president of the group representing general practitioners in a statement.

Responding the accusations that the bill unfairly discriminated against same-sex couples, Joanne Beauvais, press secretary for the Minister of Health, told GSN, ‘the bill is not aimed at any IVF or assisted fertilization procedures for same-sex couples.’

Such assessments were being considered at the request of fertility clinics, which she said had encountered some ‘horror stories’ in terms of clients seeking treatment. The examples she gave included teenage single women seeking sperm donations and women with substance-abuse problems requesting egg donations.

She said the proposed assessments were aimed at withholding IVF treatment from these types of clients rather than gay people, as, ‘from our statistics, the same-sex couples are often more fit than the heterosexual parents … same-sex couples usually pass the psychosocial assessment better.’

Ms Beauvais acknowledged that same-sex couples usually have to try very hard to have children, and that embarking on parenthood is rarely a project undertaken lightly by such people.

Because of this, such couples had nothing to fear from undergoing psychological assessments as they had a huge amount of ‘love to give’ any resulting offspring.

When asked about the line in the bill that states that a physician must be sure that sexual activity has been taking place before proceeding with IVF, she said that this would not apply to same-sex couples; ‘[For same-sex couples] the more you try, it won’t make you pregnant, but for the heterosexual parents, we wanted to make sure that they don’t jump into IVF.

‘IVF is a very invasive procedure and we’d rather that heterosexual couples first go through other fertility processes such as ovarian stimulation or assisted fertilization … it’s worth trying other methods first, to see if they might possibly work.’

Ms Beauvais said that now that Bill 20 has passed its introduction stage, it would be debated again in early 2015 – probably when the Parliament session resumes at the beginning of February.

Until then, the Minister for Health will be considering feedback on the bill, which Beauvais thought would undoubtedly go through amendments as it passes through Parliament. She highlighted another recent piece of health reform services legislature – Bill 10 – that has received 150 amendments and 15 major changes while passing through its debate stages.

‘[Bill 20] has been formulated to ensure that the health of the mother and baby are protected … in no way are we trying to ban same-sex parents.’

If you wish to comment on any aspect of the bill you can do so here.