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A new law would mean French women don’t need no man to have a baby

France wants to change its laws to allow female couples and single women to have free IVF.

Current French law says you can only access reproductive technologies like IVF if you’re in a heterosexual couple. That’s unusual for a Western European country. Most of France’s neighbours, including the UK, let all women have these treatments. It’s also, obviously, discriminatory against gay and single women. So France’s government has created a new law to change these rules. Alongside opening up access to IVF, it also wants to allow two women to be listed as mothers on birth certificates.

In response, a bunch of protests have broken out around the country. There are two strands to people’s complaints about the bill. The first, advocated by social conservatives, is grounded in moral opposition to homosexuality and a belief that depriving children of a father is immoral, un-Christian, and psychologically harmful. (These groups have said little about the fact that nearly a fifth of French households are already composed of a single mother and children).

The second concern is financial. The French government, which is mainly funded by taxpayers, pays for the reproductive treatments of women under 43. This currently costs it about €300 million a year. Obviously, the percentage of gay and single women needing reproductive help is significantly higher than for heterosexual couples, but because their numbers are lower overall, the government reckons the new law will only add about €15 million a year to its bill.

As a percentage of the government’s overall spending, or even its spending on health, that cost is tiny. (To put it in perspective, in 2019 the French government spent almost €3 billion on “cultural activities”). But some people still believe that money could be better used elsewhere.

Read our explainer on: equality.

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