Various state laws cover who can access IVF, what you need to do before having IVF treatment and what happens when couples or individuals use donor sperm, eggs or embryos (see Chapter 13 for more detailed information on this process). All states and territories allow heterosexual married or de facto couples to access IVF treatment (although in South Australia you have to have lived together for at least five years to qualify!), but the situation isn't as clear cut for single women and
State IVF laws
I South Australia and Northern Territory:
Reproductive Technology (Clinical Practices) Act 1988 (SA)
I Victoria: Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (Vic.)
i Western Australia: Human Reproductive Technology Act 1991 (WA)
The following states have their own laws regulating IVF clinics:
i New South Wales: The Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation 2009 under the Assisted Reproductive Technology Act 2007 (NSW)
For single women and lesbian couples the rules for accessing IVF vary between the states. Some states distinguish between medical and social infertility and allow single women and lesbian couples who can't have babies because of a medical problem to access IVF, but don't allow access to women who don't have or don't want a male partner. Reproductive tourism is a term coined to describe women who cross state borders to access reproductive services that they can't get in their home state.
The long and the short of the state rules for accessing IVF for single women and lesbian couples are as follows:
^ New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria: Single women and lesbian couples can access IVF, irrespective of whether they're medically or socially infertile.
^ Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory:
Individual IVF clinics decide whether to treat single women and lesbian couples.
^ South Australia and Northern Territory: Single women and lesbian couples can access IVF only if they're medically infertile or are at risk of passing on a serious genetic condition. (I explain how IVF is used to avoid passing on 'bad' genes in Chapter 16.)
The following successful legal challenges to the old South Australian and Victorian laws that stopped single women from accessing IVF have gone some way to improving single women's access to infertility treatment in those two states:
I In 1996 Gail Pearce, a single women, claimed that the South Australian Reproductive Technology Act discriminated against single women on the basis of their marital status. The Supreme Court agreed and since then in South Australia single women can access IVF (provided they're medically infertile or at risk of passing on a severe genetic disease).
I In 2000 Dr John McBain took the case of his patient, Lisa Meldrum, to court and was successful in arguing that the Victorian Infertility Treatment Act contradicted the federal Sex Discrimination Act. The court ruled that in Victoria single women who are medically infertile or at risk of passing on a severe genetic disease could access IVF. Since then Victorian laws have become even more inclusive, and now socially infertile single women and lesbian couples can also access infertility services.
With the exception of Victoria, state laws are silent on gay male couples but a number of gay couples have entered into surrogacy agreements with women outside Australia and brought their babies back to Australia to be raised. (I explain more about surrogacy in Chapter 14.)
New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have no legal prerequisites for accessing IVF but in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria you can't access IVF if:
1 You've been convicted of a sexual or violent offence 1 You've lost custody of a child
In addition, in all states and territories clinics must give you plenty of verbal and written information explaining the ins and outs of treatment before you start and you have to sign a bundle of consent forms (I talk more about this in Chapter 5). I once heard that you sign more consent forms for IVF treatment than for a heart transplant! Victorian couples are even more informed: They're required by law to meet with an infertility counsellor before embarking on IVF treatment. (I discuss the benefits of counselling in Chapter 5.)
Was this article helpful?
Far too many people struggle to fall pregnant and conceive a child naturally. This book looks at the reasons for infertility and how using a natural, holistic approach can greatly improve your chances of conceiving a child of your own without surgery and without drugs!