IVF*: What are we really talking about?
An insight into the life of a test-tube baby
by Camille Chabot
You might have heard of the ongoing debate in France about In- Vitro Fertilization (IVF). But what is this process exactly and what does it imply for single women or lesbians?
My mothers met at Paris Charles de Gaulle in 1996, where they both worked, and there began my story. After several years together, my parents, like many adults of their age, considered having children. While for most parents conceiving babies is comparatively easy, for homosexual parents it is more complicated than that. However, until very recently, IVF was only legal for infertile heterosexual couples. Lesbian couples who wanted to have children thus had to undergo a very long, expensive and tiresome process in neighbouring countries. My parents chose Belgium, where IVF was legal for all women.
In addition, my mothers wanted a “Yes Donor,” meaning someone that their children could have information on later in life. However, in Europe, only Classical IVF (with an anonymous donor chosen at random) was available.
Therefore, they contacted the Sperm Bank of California, which allowed the release of the identity of the donor on the 18th birthday of the child (Fun Fact: I just discovered that this Bank was situated in Berkeley, California where I will be doing my double degree!). This Bank’s website takes the form of a donor catalogue: there is information on physical appearance, ethnicity, blood type, potential diseases, and occupation. My parents based their choice on health, level of study, ethnicity as they wanted their children to be of the same descent as them, and motivation (My donor had a lesbian sister and thus supported LGBTQ+ rights).
Then began a lengthy procedure of coordination between the Sperm Bank of California and the hospital in Belgium. After approximately six months, my biological mother checked with a Belgian gynecologist to ask whether she could support the hormonal treatment. My mother also obtained these medical tests from French gynecologists who supported IVF for homosexual couples but risked several years of imprisonment for assisting her. Fortunately, the IVF worked very well for my mother and out of the six vials women were allowed to be provided, she managed with only half a vial. Thus, I was born. The rest was stored until my brother was conceived 3.5 years later with the other half.
Although I was born in 2001, my second mother was not considered to be my legal parent until 2015. When I was born, my mom had to declare herself a single mother as my other parent was not recognized by the law. She had stated in her will that she wished my second mother would take care of my brother and I in case she wasn’t able to do so anymore. Regardless, if something had happened to my mother, a judge would have considered us orphans and placed us with any other members of our family, but not my other mother.
2013 was a crucial year for my family. On the 18th of May, France was the thirteenth country worldwide to allow same-sex couples to get married. Because a law from 2002 authorized married spouse to adopt their partner’s children and become their official parents, same-sex marriage also meant that our family could be legally recognized as such. My mothers got married in December 2014 in the town hall of a small rural city of France, with close friends and relatives. It was among the first same-sex marriages to be celebrated in France.
Although legally married, my parents still had to submit a file, along with financial reports and testimonies of family, teachers, friends and doctors to prove that my second mother had taken part in our education and could be recognized as our legal parent. This file was sent to the Family Court with the help of a lawyer.
Despite high chances of rejection without justification, we got lucky and a positive response was given without any call to appear in Court. My adoption was celebrated in September 2015 and marked the legal acknowledgement of my family as a whole, from my grandparents to my mothers, and our access to the same rights as other families. However, any mention of the IVF, though legal now, could have led to the refusal of my adoption and potential condemnation of my parents for evasion of the law.
Regardless to say, my relationship with both my parents has always been a very affectionate and strong one. I can confidently claim that contrary to what some detractors of the IVF for lesbians affirm, children do not need a mother and a father, but only the care and love of our parents, regardless of their gender, or whether they are biologically related to us or not.
*IVF (in vitro fertilization): a medical procedure whereby an egg is fertilized by sperm in a test tube or elsewhere outside the body.
1982: Birth of Amandine, first test-tube baby to be born in France - IVF becomes a solution only for infertile heterosexual couples
1982: Creation of the “Commité national d’éthique”, French National Consultative Ethics Committee created by Mitterrand to single out issues arising out of progress in the life sciences and make public statements and recommendations
May 2013: Legalisation of same-sex marriage and adoption by homosexual couples, opposition protests erupt across France
27 June 2019: French National Consultative Ethics Committee says that it supports the legalization of IVF for single women and lesbians
27 September 2019: French Parliament approves a bill legalizing IVF for all women