IVF for lesbian couples and single women in France has difficult birth

Lesbian couples and single women in France hailed victory this summer when, after two years of ferocious parliamentary debate, a law was finally passed allowing them access to assisted reproduction (MAP). But the health system is unable to cope with the surge in demand and long delays mean many women continue to seek treatment abroad.

Since 29 September, 2021, all women aged 43 and under can access fertility treatments such as IVF and artificial insemination – treatment previously reserved for heterosexual couples.

The legalisation of MAP for all women was one of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign promises and since becoming president it remains his only major social reform.

But it’s got off to a disappointing start as the country’s fertility clinics struggle to cope with demand.

By end of November last year, 2,750 MAP requests had been made by single women or lesbian couples, triple the usual number.

“It’s far more than we imagined,” said health minister Olivier Véran at the time.

The waiting game
“In two months we had two or three times more requests from women couples and single women than we got from infertile couples over a whole year,” professor Catherine Guillemain from Marseille’s Hôpital de la Conception told RFI.

Guillemain heads up the hospital’s egg and sperm donation centre (Cecos) and says they are “overwhelmed with calls”, and that it's a similar story in the other 28 centres across France.

As a result waiting lists are long, assuming anyone picks up the phone.

“For the moment some centres can’t even fix an appointment, in others we’re talking about a six to 12 month delay,” says Eloïne Fouilloux, vice-president of Enfants d’arc en ciel – a support group for lesbian couples and single women seeking MAP.

“It’s frustrating and many women are continuing to go to Spain or Belgium... it’s quicker and going more smoothly there.”

It's a costly process though, unlike in France where treatment is free for women up to the age of 43.

“Faced with the log-jam, the only thing we can do is get organised little by little, but that only works when staff are ready and have time to process the requests,” said Guillemain.


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