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Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Lesbians protest IVF ban plan
IVF
Mr Howard wants IVF treatment restricted
Attempts by Australian Prime Minister John Howard to ban fertility treatment for lesbians and single women have sparked protests around the country.

Forty activists were charged with trespass in Brisbane after barricading themselves in a government building.

John Howard
Mr Howard says children need mother and father
Another was charged with assaulting police in Sydney when protesters tried to storm John Howard's electoral office.

A handful slipped through the cordon but were quickly removed.

In Melbourne, activists gathered outside government offices chanting "get your rosaries off our ovaries".

Ruling

Mr Howard said on Wednesday he planned to amend the federal Sex Discrimination Act so states can prohibit women without male partners from attending in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinics.


For women who are single, who desperately do want to have children, I think [IVF] should remain an option

Democrat leader Meg Lees
The move came after a court in Victoria ruled last week that a current ban on lesbians receiving IVF treatment in the state breached sex discrimination legislation.

Mr Howard said children should have "the prospect of the care and affection of both a mother and a father".

"We're not seeking to punish people for a lifestyle choice," he added.

"But we are saying that it's reasonable for the community to have a benchmark and that benchmark is based on a concern about the interests of children."

However, politicians from the opposition Labor party and the Democrats have pledged to block the move.

Outrage

Australia's large gay and lesbian community was also outraged by Mr Howard's proposal, accusing him of tampering with human rights.

Australia's gay community is estimated to account for about 6% of the 13.5 million adult population, according to gay marketing consultancy Significant Others.

Significant Others' consultant Ian Johnson said banning IVF would not stop lesbians becoming parents.

Mr Johnson said a recent survey showed 20% of lesbians had children while a further 19.7% intended to become a parent in the next five years.

But he said the vast majority favoured self-fertilisation at home over IVF.

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See also:

11 Jul 00 | Background Briefings
The future of fertility
31 Mar 99 | Medical notes
IVF
31 Dec 99 | Health
IVF 'no better than insemination'
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