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Victorian IVF win for Lesbians

The Victorian Government has announced a change that will see IVF legally available to all lesbians and single women.

The Victorian Government has announced widespread changes to surrogacy laws next year that will allow single women and lesbians to get fertility treatment without the current requirement of being certified as medically infertile.

Inclusive of a major overhaul of parenting laws, surrogacy rules will also be relaxed, giving gay partners - as well as parents of surrogate children - greater parenting rights. But the government has yet to act on legalizing gay adoption as it rewrites the 20-year-old laws.

This change in IVF laws has been welcomed by Gay and Lesbian rights groups because lesbians will no longer have to travel interstate to arrange fertility procedures or surrogacy treatments. Lesbian couples trying to conceive through IVF were traveling as often as monthly to states such as Brisbane or Sydney, often with only 24 hours notice, causing huge disruption to work, social and family lives.

Victoria's IVF laws have long been viewed as outdated when compared to most other Australia states. That, along with the current push for equal rights amongst Gay and Lesbian lobby groups made it no surprise when the State Government commissioned a review by the Law Reform Commission.

The changes will give single mothers and lesbians better access to IVF technology in Victoria, and will leave South Australia as the only state that limits access to IVF to those who are infertile or carrying a genetic disorder.

In somewhat of a downplay, Victoria's Attorney-General Rob Hulls, says the changes merely bring Victoria into line with other states.

"These changes when implemented will bring us into line with our states. We'll remove anomalies in the law and ensure that children born as a result of ART [Assisted Reproductive Technology] or surrogacy, don't have inferior health or legal protections compared with other children."

"The Law Reform Commission made it clear that there was a very strong case for change, for reform, that the existing laws are inconsistent and becoming increasingly unworkable," he said.

Mr Hulls says the law changes were an in inevitable by-product of scientific advances and social change.

"Our laws have fallen behind advances in medical technology and changing social attitudes and family structures," he said.

Mr Hulls says the State Government views the love of a child as a more important factor than the way that child was conceived.

"The Government fully accepts that the paramount consideration for laws in this area should be the best interest of children born as a result of assisted reproductive technology," he said.

"The fact that a child is wanted, is loved and is well cared for, in the Government's view is far more important than the way in which that child was conceived.?

Mr Hulls said the reforms would provide reproductive equality and reduce the incidence of self insemination, which would remain technically illegal under the new laws. He said the government would seek a national consensus on gay adoption.

Gay couples have welcomed the legislation but not surprisingly, family groups say it will erode traditional family values.

The legislation will:
* Allow single and lesbian women to access IVF;
* Legalise non-commercial surrogacy. (Current laws stipulate that a surrogate mother must be infertile to access reproductive treatment, not the woman who is seeking a child);
* Recognise the non-biological mother and father of a surrogate child as the legal parents;
* Recognise the female partner of a woman as the joint parent of a child;
* Allow women to use the sperm of their dead partners, providing there is prior written consent;
* Enforce screening for IVF candidates and ban sex offenders and people convicted of violent offences from treatment.


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