Limited access to assisted reproduction challenged

Ljubljana – The Advocate of the Principle of Equality is mounting a constitutional challenge to legislation that allows the use of medically assisted reproductive methods only for heterosexual couples who are married or in a civil partnership. Such legislation discriminates against single women and same-sex couples, the institution said.

The ombudsman considers that the legislation discriminates against a certain segment of women since “biomedical assistance to conceive is not available to them simply because they are single, divorced, widowed or in another type of partnership or cohabitation” as opposed to heterosexual relationships.

“The less favourable treatment they receive solely because of this personal circumstance is without grounds and therefore unjustified”.

Under current law, only infertile women in registered heterosexual relationships have the right to access medically assisted fertility treatments or assisted reproductive technologies.

“All the others are excluded from this option. This is despite the fact that Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees human rights to all regardless of their personal circumstances. Moreover, Article 55 of the Constitution provides that in Slovenia, the right to decide on the birth of one’s children is free and that the state shall ensure that opportunities are provided to exercise this freedom.”

The Advocate of the Principle of Equality has therefore brought a constitutional challenge to parts of the infertility treatment and procedures of biomedically-assisted procreation act that sets down that only heterosexual couples living in or out of wedlock are eligible for such treatments.

It also called on the Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of segments of the civil union act that prevent same-sex couples from accessing assisted reproductive technologies.

The ombudsman proposes that the court give priority to the matter “as the procedure of assisted reproduction is only allowed for women of child-bearing age”.

It also proposes that, until the issue has been remedied, infertile women who are not married or in a civil partnership should be subject to the same rules as infertile women who are married or in a civil partnership.

In 2000, the parliament passed the infertility treatment and procedures of biomedically-assisted procreation act, which gives access to assisted reproductive methods only for married couples or those in a civil partnership.

A year later, an amendment to the law was endorsed by MPs, which would have allowed assisted reproductive technology to be used by single women as well, but it was rejected in a subsequent legislative referendum. In the referendum, 72% of voters voted against the amendment with turnout at 36%.