Under a new draft law on bioethics launched by the French government on July 24, medically assisted procreation (MAP, PMA in French) will soon be available to all women.
The flagship measure of the radical new bioethics bill is to make MAP available to lesbian couples and single women. It aims to revise the current law which dates back to 2011.
This legal revamp was one of the key promises during President Emmanuel Macron’s presidential campaign. However, it has already been postponed several times. It is the result of a long consultation process and was presented to the last Council of Ministers before the annual summer break. It will then pass for final consideration to MEPs on September 24.
“This new law responds to a societal demand,” said Health Minister Agnès Buzyn, in Le Parisien newspaper. “Family patterns have changed. All the studies now show that children raised in homosexual couples or by single mothers do not have any particular problems as distinct from children raised in more traditional types of family situations.”
Introducing the arrival of this bill in mid-June, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he was “convinced that we can achieve a form of peaceful debate”. In other words, he does not want a repeat of the combative battle for marriage equality that occurred at the start of former president Hollande’s five-year term.
While the government debates look set to be calmer, the group who campaigned against gay marriage, ‘Manif Pour Tous’, has said it intends to demonstrate its opposition again.
The text of this new law has the support of several ministers, including Buzyn (Health), Nicole Belloubet (Justice) and Frédérique Vidal (Research). In its 32 articles, the bill sets out a number of strictly medical measures relating to embryo research and genetic testing.
MAP open to single women and lesbian couples
The key, and possibly most divisive, element of the law is the opening of MAP to lesbian couples and single women. Currently, only married women can avail of this state service.
In addition, the text establishes a clear system of filiation for children born from a MAP in a lesbian couple.
Before female couples engage in MAP with sperm donation, they will have to sign an ‘early joint declaration’ before a notary, to be sent to the civil registrar after birth. The two women, the one who carried the baby and her partner, will thus be both recognised as the parents.
This proposed method of family acknowledgement has upset some groups who see it as discriminatory. They would prefer a shared single system for all couples using donated MAP, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
In another major development, this bill will also allow women to freeze their own eggs, not just to freeze them for medical reasons as is the case today. At present, many French women are forced to travel to Spain and other European countries in order to freeze their eggs.
The sperm donation revolution
Another measure of the bill related to the extension of the MAP has attracted much attention: the partial end of the anonymity of sperm donation. It is motivated by the testimonies of many adults born from donation, who stress the importance of having access to their biological origins.
The proposed system revolutionises sperm donation as it has been practiced in France since the 1973, which has kept total anonymity as the cornerstone.
To donate his sperm, a man will now have to indicate if he is willing to have his identity revealed to any child born of this donation, once the child reaches the age of majority.
Minister Belloubet said in Le Parisien that this did not, however, mean the end to all anonymity. “The act of donation will crucially remain anonymous, the donor will still not know who receives his sperm.”