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Over 60,000 children have been born in Australia using In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) since Australia’s first IVF assisted birth at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital in 1980. Despite the incredible growth in the use of this technology over the past fifteen years, the legislative structure in Australia around the use of IVF and other assisted reproductive services, such as donor insemination, remains patchy.
Currently only three Australian states – Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia – have legislation in place which governs the use of these technologies. The legislation in these three states lacks consistency and differs on important issues; such as who has access to the assisted reproductive services, and whether egg or sperm donors can be identified. Meanwhile, all other states and territories currently have no legislation in place governing the use of these technologies and leave it up to individual providers to conduct their reproductive services in line with voluntary NHMRC guidelines.
Rather than legislating for important issues such as donor identity, patient education, and record keeping the Federal government has confined its legislative response to reproductive technologies to issues of access and Medicare funding ie restricting access to reproductive services for some members of the community. Just last week the Federal Liberal Senator Guy Barnett again called for single and lesbian women to be denied access to all assisted reproduction services (reported in the Australian ). This has happened at a time when other governments (e.g. in Denmark, Sweden and Italy) are legislating to relax control of access to these services (report by BBC ).
In Australia, the patchy legislative response by state governments, and the Federal government’s limited focus on restricting access, means that important issues are left poorly addressed. This means that there is no consistency of treatment in Australia for families utilising IVF and no guarantee of the right of those undertaking donor-assisted conception to important information about their children’s genetic heritage.
NHMRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Australian Health Policy Institute
at The University of Sydney
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