Victorian Women Will No Longer Need Husband's Permission For IVF
Women separated from their husbands, but not divorced, will no longer have to get their estranged spouse's permission to access IVF in Victoria.
It follows the advice of an interim report into reproductive treatment and a Federal Court ruling in September, which found the current law discriminated against the woman on the basis of her marital status.
"We're changing the law to reflect contemporary values of our society and ensure that women do have control over their bodies, their futures and their ability to freely access this assisted reproductive technology," Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told reporters.
The amendments remove the requirement that women need the approval of their former partner to access IVF using their own eggs and donor sperm.
Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority chief executive Louise Johnson said there were many women who were missing out on the chance to become a mum because of the current law.
"Only a few weeks ago I had a phone call from one of the clinics, saying one of their patients was considering treatment interstate because she was affected, she was in the process of going through a divorce and wouldn't be able to have treatment here," Johnson said.
"For women, time really matters, particularly for women in their late thirties, early forties. Waiting a year for a divorce proceeding to go through can be the difference between succeeding with treatment or not."
In September 2018, fertility clinic Melbourne IVF was taken to the Federal Court by a woman who was refused treatment because she did not have the permission of her husband -- who she was estranged from and intended to divorce after the 12 month waiting period.
The Federal Court ruled against Melbourne IVF, saying the refusal was "discrimination", but it was a ruling that was welcomed by the fertility company.
Dr Lyndon Hale, Medical Director of Melbourne IVF, told 10 daily the company's "hands were tied" when it came to treating the woman without her estranged husband's permission.
"We have to follow the law otherwise we lose our registration," Hale said.
"We know we were discriminating, and if the court ruled against us we were happy to treat the woman."
Artificial insemination laws are state-based and vary around the country, but Victoria has the most stringent regulations and is the only state to require the permission of a husband.
"New South Wales and Queensland are typically less keen to legislate in this area," Hale said.
Hale recounted the story a woman -- who could not be identified -- who travelled from Victoria to Brisbane to receive fertility treatment. Her estranged husband was overseas and could not be contacted, meaning she could not get his permission as required under Victorian law.
The changing of this requirement was just one recommendation to come out of last year's Gorton Report into artificial insemination.
"The Government is trying to fix this loophole," Hale said.
"We commend them on these changes."
The bill to change the current legislation will be tabled in Victorian Parliament on Tuesday.