Bill Speech: Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment (Consent) Bill 2019

Ms SPENCE (Yuroke) (16:11:35): I rise to make a contribution to the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment (Consent) Bill 2019. This bill amends the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 with the purpose of allowing a married woman who is separated from her spouse but not divorced to access assisted reproductive treatment using donor sperm without requiring the consent of her spouse. Even though this objective is pretty clear and straightforward it does seem to be heard, or what I have noticed, read, differently by different people. On 6 June the Premier put up a post on social media about this proposed legislation. I will just read the post. He says: You’ve separated from your husband, but you’re not divorced yet. You want to have a baby by yourself using donor sperm and IVF. Under our current laws, if a woman finds herself in this situation, she must get approval from her former partner to be able to access IVF treatment—even though it’s not his child, and it shouldn’t be his decision to make. It’s outdated. It’s wrong. And under new laws introduced in Parliament this week, it’s going to change. Pretty clear. Pretty straightforward. So I had a bit of look though some of the thousands of comments that were posted in response to this, and whilst they were overwhelmingly supportive and some even surprised that this reform was necessary, there were also some other themes that came up in those comments. The most common of these was that it was the husband’s sperm that was being used and this would undoubtedly lead to child support cases, and it was all terribly unfair. And of course this is not correct. And that was made clear. The amendment enables the use of donor sperm, not the spouse’s sperm; however, it did not really matter how many times this was corrected within this stream of posts, others continued to make this incorrect assertion. Another theme related to a woman accessing IVF without a husband. And I just want to read a sample of those comments: In my opinion, this law allows a woman to commit adultery. This law would further make our country morally bankrupt. This will encourage more unmarried mothers gain access to free welfare and thats not right at all. Come on Dan, Society can do better than that. Wtf, are you mad, too many single mothers already that taxpayers keep, & too many children don’t know who their father is now. Omg!!!! Should be for married couples only … Why would you want to go and have a baby on your own! Our moral compass is so out of whack! … nobody gives a f what women do with their bodies. They just have no business bringing someone into this world who will not be loved or taken care of. Single mothers are terrible for children. Not only is this current legislation offensive and outdated but quite frankly those comments are as well. As someone who spent many years raising my son on my own—and I was raised by my father on his own—I am incredibly disappointed that people would make these insulting and ignorant comments. In my experience it is not the number of parents that determines how a child is raised—be it one, two, three or even four where both birth parents have re-partnered—but how a parent takes on that role. In my view one committed and caring parent can be much better than two or more parents if that relationship is dysfunctional. As the member for Mildura said earlier, the most important thing in a child’s life is love. I also want to make some comments as someone who spent a long time receiving IVF treatment hopeful for a sibling for my son. I do this because I want people to understand that people who choose to go down this path do not do so lightly. I also do this with a fair touch of PTSD, because, as people probably know, there was not a successful outcome. Assisted reproductive technology—of which IVF is only one form—only ends in one of two ways: it is either the most rewarding process that enables you to achieve the wish of becoming a parent or it is the most devastating process that results in heartbreak, often several times over. In my case it was the latter. Undergoing IVF treatment is gruelling, but for those who are accessing it often it is the last resort to achieve parenthood. For those who do not know, I will tell you just a little bit about what is involved. Without going into all of the details, it involves lots of medications, lots of needles, lots of invasive procedures and lots of money. It is all-consuming. It dictates your thoughts, it dictates your day, it dictates your diary and it becomes your private preoccupation. The cycle of treatment can differ depending on what is most appropriate for each person, but for me it involved a regime of fertility medications, with tablets, nasal spray and daily injections. Because I am an absolute sook I could not give myself those injections so my husband had the terrible task of having to do the daily injections knowing that I hated it. Then there is testing undertaken via internal ultrasounds to check the ovaries and the egg production, and blood tests to check the hormone levels, followed by surgical egg retrieval. Following sperm production and insemination to create the embryos the transfer takes place and the waiting game begins. Depending on how many eggs are retrieved and how many embryos are achieved, some may be frozen. I was not a very good egg producer so it required a repeat of the full cycle. I cannot say how many cycles I had. I cannot say how many embryo transplants took place, because if I kept count of it, that would have been a weight that I did not want to carry around. For most people undergoing the treatment, the medication makes you feel pretty ordinary and the procedures make you feel pretty ordinary, but the focus has to remain on the endgame and remaining hopeful. But for us there came a time when that was not possible anymore and enough was enough. Whilst I do not remember every cycle—whether the transfer was successful or whether after a short time the pregnancy ended—I do vividly remember the last one, which was successful but resulted in a miscarriage after about 14 weeks. At that point we agreed that we just could not do it again. It was too much of a toll physically and mentally, so we called time on that. I tell this story to make the point, as I said earlier, that those undertaking this treatment do not do so lightly. This is not a walk in the park, and often, being the last resort, it ends, as I said before, in one of two ways: joy or devastation. For those that are going through this treatment, my thoughts and my understanding are with them. I do want to mention the great work of the Minister for Women, who penned a terrific opinion piece on Mother’s Day this year acknowledging the invisible group of women that do not have children but desperately want to and are undergoing IVF treatment. This was a great piece, and I encourage people to have a look at it if they missed it. I thank her for telling that story. I wish all of those who are undergoing this treatment and those that will be able to access this treatment with the passage of this legislation all the very best for a joyful outcome. The process to get that outcome is gruelling but the success makes it worth it. We should all be extra kind to those that are going through this. Knowing what is involved, I go back to some of the comments that I quoted above about why anyone would want to have a child on their own. The dedication to parenthood that these mothers have should never be questioned. What they are going through demonstrates their commitment to love and to parenthood. The bill removes an outdated barrier to achieving that parenthood. I commend the bill, and I hope it has a speedy passage.