Australian fury at ban on IVF for lesbians

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The Independent Online

John Howard, Australia's conservative Prime Minister, defied public opinion yesterday and introduced a Bill that would prevent single women and lesbians from having access to in-vitro fertilisation services.

John Howard, Australia's conservative Prime Minister, defied public opinion yesterday and introduced a Bill that would prevent single women and lesbians from having access to in-vitro fertilisation services.

The Bill is likely to pass through the lower house of parliament but founder in the Senate, where the opposition Labor Party and Democrats have vowed to oppose it. The Democrats usually vote with the government in the Senate.

The issue has split the nation, with some women asserting their right to fertility services regardless of circumstances, and traditionalists arguing children need fathers.

Debate has raged in the media for a fortnight after a single woman, Lisa Meldrum, successfully challenged a state law in Victoria that restricts IVF treatment to married women and women in de facto heterosexual relationships. The judge found that the law contravened federal sex discrimination legislation, which outlaws discrimination based on marital status. But a few days later Mr Howard announced that he would amend the federal legislation to allow all six states to bar single women and lesbians from fertility programmes

The government said yesterday that the aim of its Bill was to enable children to grow up in a traditional family set-up.

Protesters in Canberra described the Bill as an invitation to discriminate against same-sex couples. "We should be working to eliminate discrimination in all forms, not introducing new ones," said one protester, Erica Lewis.

A poll this week found that 47 per cent of people opposed a bar on single women and 42 per cent supported it. For lesbians, 47 per cent supported a bar, with 44 per cent opposing.

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