The head of the Australian Medical Association has backed down from comments he made about lesbian couples accessing IVF, but still admitted a sense of discomfort about providing medical proceedures for non-medical purposes.

AMA chief Dr Andrew Pesce was quoted in The Herald Sun, fertility treatment is there to treat diseases that cause infertility -” it shouldn’t be there as a lifestyle choice … same-sex couples: they don’t have disease, but they are using an option that gets around the natural order of things.

After a number of medical experts and the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby denounced the statement, the AMA contacted The Herald Sun again to retract the comments, which Pesce then called clumsy.

He has now said he was quoted out of context and his comments about IVF access were in relation to questions about women purposefully delaying pregnancy.

I was in one way critical of women using IVF in order to delay having their kids until later in life, because I saw it as a fundamentally risky thing to do and then it got tied up into that whole thing, he told Sydney Star Observer.

I think I used the term -˜natural order’, but that was in the context of discussion about delayed child rearing … I certainly didn’t intend to use it to imply that lesbian women shouldn’t have babies.

I can tell you I have looked after several lesbian couples and delivered their babies and I have referred single women to infertility units to access IVF or assisted reproduction because that was their only chance to have a baby, so I have no personal problem doing that, he said. I have absolutely no problem with a completely non-discretionary approach.

Pesce admitted a sense of old fashioned discomfort about medical procedures being used for non-medical reasons.

That’s not going to the morality of lesbians having children. As a doctor, it seems medical treatments should be used to treat medical conditions. So I can see why there’s a sort of crossover of being judgmental or whatever.

It causes me some sort of internal difficulties but I actually see it in the same way as when my patients ask me to do an elective Caesarian without medical indication -” I’ll do that and I won’t hold it against them. It’s just that sometimes, somehow it goes against the grain. Cosmetic plastic surgery and that sort of stuff, it makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable about my responsibility as a doctor to do medicine, but ultimately we look after our patients, and when you talk to them face to face it never seems to be an inappropriate request.

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