The patriarchal nuclear family may have disappeared from most households, but it’s alive and kicking in Victoria’s fertility laws. In August last year, a lesbian police officer was charged with using an in vitro fertility (IVF) treatment. According to the Victorian Infertility Treatment Act (ITA), only married or heterosexual defacto couples can legally access IVF or sperm donor programs. Single women and lesbians are still branded as unfit mothers.
Victoria’s laws — the most backward in the country — force lesbians and single women to go interstate for infertility services. One in five lesbians, and untold numbers of single women, are already mothers. Yet Senior Constable Haley Atkinson and her partner are among the growing number of lesbians who want children but are denied legal and safe access to the technology.
Like Australia’s abortion laws which offically criminalise terminations, the ITA leaves many women little choice. Self-insemination and other uses of unscreened semen risk the transmission of chlamydia, syphilis, hepatitis B, HIV and many other infections. Says Dr Ruth McNair, convener of the recently-formed Fertility Access Rights (FAR) lobby group: “The issue is not whether these groups should become mothers…but whether they are entitled to the same level of information and support from health services as any other woman.”
Reproductive rights is a measuring rod for how far women can define our sexuality and control our bodies, free from economic or social coercion. With laws like these, who needs a backlash! The Atkinson case raised a new alarm for feminists. Let’s take the offensive!
- Access for all women to free, safe reproductive technology, under women’s control
- Free, safe and accessible abortion on demand for all women, regardless of age
- An end to forced, non-consensual sterilisation