Women who live in Victoria, Australia may be able to benefit from new legislature that took effect on January 1, 2009. The new law says that single women or lesbian couples can now get IVF treatment in their own home state instead of having to travel a great distance north to receive treatment.
Gay male couples will also benefit from the Assisted Reproductive Treatment (ART) Bill, which gives them permission to have IVF treatment with surrogate mothers. The law has been a year in the making and arrived piggyback on recommendations issued by the state's Victorian Law Reform Commission meant to bring the state's ART regulation in line with that of other parts of Australia.
Those who benefit from the new law see it as having pluses and minuses. On the plus side, the new legislature lends credence to the idea that biology does not necessarily define parenthood. On the other hand, those to whom the law applies must submit to police checks as well as child protection order checks.
The rationale for such checks is hard to fathom. The director of Melbourne IVF, Dr Lyndon Hale gave an explanation that is kind of hard to swallow considering that money has little to do with the morality issues involved with these checks, "The argument forwarded by the Government is that this is Government funds that are being used to help these people get pregnant and therefore they require extra checking."
Perhaps even more intriguing is how these police checks were passed through Parliament with only one dissenting party, the Greens. It seems that the checks were included because of the commission's statement that, "People with convictions for serious sex or violence offences or had children taken from their care should not have access to IVF".
While these types of police checks have been in place for adoptions for as long as anyone can remember, there is no evidence to suggest that couples who go for IVF treatment are criminals or will become child abusers. It can be presumed that if such a case were suspected by the treating physician, he would bring this to the attention of the IVF clinic's ethics committee. However, fertility expert Professor Gab Kovacs says, "There have not been a series of IVF children mistreated. There have not been a whole lot of criminals who've been having children."
The real question is whether the Department of Human Services will be able to handle as many as 3000 child protection order checks at one time. It is hoped that this legislation can be amended to remove these checks so they won't hold up so many couples' and singles' fulfillment of the parenthood dream. It worked that way in Britain where, in 2005, public opposition and too much paperwork put an end to checking for criminal records in those wishing to undergo fertility treatments. Thank goodness.