South Australian Labor MLC Ian Hunter will introduce the Assisted Reproductive Treatment (Assistance for Lesbians and Single Women) Amendment Bill 2011 into state Parliament next week.

The bill seeks to amend section nine of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 1988, which currently prevents some single women and women in same-sex relationships from accessing fertility treatment in South Australia.

At present, South Australian law requires a woman to be diagnosed medically infertile in order to access IVF reproductive treatment.

The proposed bill is based on recommendations made by the Social Development Committee’s 2011 report into same-sex parenting.

The Committee recommended that current legislation governing assisted reproductive treatment be amended to incorporate a broadening of the criteria used to define infertility, consistent with provisions contained in Victorian legislation.

The Committee heard that some lesbian couples who have been denied access to assisted reproductive treatment in South Australia have travelled to other jurisdictions where laws are far less restrictive, often incurring unnecessary expense and stress.

Finance Minister Penny Wong’s announcement that she and partner Sophie Allouache were expecting a child through IVF – and the assumption that they had to travel interstate to receive the treatment – recently drew attention to the discriminatory laws regarding access to IVF for lesbian couples. Read more here.

The Committee also heard that limited access to assisted reproductive treatment in South Australia may mean that some women will choose to self-inseminate outside of regulated clinical settings. The Committee noted that this may place a woman and her child at risk of disease because the donor is not thoroughly screened for genetic diseases or sexually transmitted infections.

The use of self-insemination in private arrangements may mean that a child born through such arrangements will be denied information about the full circumstances of their birth and genetic background.

Hunter, who is the chair of the Social Development Committee, will now introduce the recommended amendments to Parliament when it returns from winter break next week.

This Amendment Bill contains the same amendment Mr Hunter moved in Parliament in 2009, which was defeated in the Legislative Council by a vote of 10:11.

“Given it’s been almost two years since this issue was last debated, and there has been the Social Development Committee report and recommendations to amend the IVF Bill since – as well as some significant changes to the membership of the Legislative Council since I last attempted this amendment – I though it timely to introduce it again and to test the will of the members of the Legislative Council,” Hunter said.

South Australian Greens MLC Tammy Franks told the Star Observer last month that she’d support legislation to change the current laws.

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