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BIRTH

French docs admit to illegally helping gay couples have kids

Some 130 doctors in France owned up on Friday to having helped gay couples to have children, in the hope of denouncing the "incoherence" of French law, which does not allow it.

French docs admit to illegally helping gay couples have kids
Photo: AFP

In an open letter in Friday's edition of French daily Le Monde, the doctors wrote: “We doctors, biologists, own up to having helped, accompanied gay couples or single women in their efforts to have children, which is not possible for them in France.”

They went on to demand a change in the law, allowing these groups to have IVF treatment.

Under France's current law, “medically assisted procreation” (known as PMA in France) is reserved for heterosexual couples only, while surrogacy is illegal under any circumstances. The doctors did not raise objections about the ban on surrogacy, saying that they wanted to avoid “commodification” of the body.

The group was headed by gynaecologist René Frydman, an expert in assisted reproduction who produced France's first 'test-tube baby'.

The extension of PMA to gay couples was originally included in France's 2013 marriage equality bill, but was later dropped due to the weight of the opposition against the bill.

That climb-down angered gay rights groups, who called President François Hollande a traitor.

The doctors argue that this is an inconsistency, since gay couples and single women are able to adopt children.

They are also asking that women be able to freeze their eggs for later pregnancy and donate eggs, a possibility already exists in several European countries including Spain, the UK and Belgium.

In France, this is only allowed if the women's fertility is at risk due to medical reasons, such as having to undergo chemotherapy, and not if the woman simply wishes to have children later in life.

The doctors' manifesto has drawn comparisons in French media to the Manifesto of the 343, a declaration written by Simone de Beauvoir and signed by 343 women who admitted to having had an abortion, which contributed to the decriminalization of abortion.

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GAY RIGHTS

EU complaint lodged against French sex ban for gay blood donors

Gay rights groups said Thursday they had filed a complaint with the European Commission alleging discrimination by France over its ban on blood donations by gay men unless they abstain from sex for a year beforehand.

EU complaint lodged against French sex ban for gay blood donors
Illustration photo: AFP
The move came three years after France lifted a 30-year ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, on condition they practise sexual abstinence for 12 months to guard against HIV transmission.
  
“This rule, which is still in place, effectively excludes 93.8 percent of gay men from donating blood,” said a joint statement by Stop Homophobie, Mousse, ELCS (Local officials against AIDS), SOS Homophobie and Familles LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). 
   
The complaint was lodged on Thursday with the commission in the hope that the policy will be formally recognised as illegally discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. 
 
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France plummets in LGBT-friendliness rankings after homophobic attacksPhoto: AFP

Until July 2016, gay and bisexual men had been completely barred from donating blood under a ban which went into force in 1983 shortly after the HIV virus was discovered.    

It is a sensitive issue in France, where hundreds of people died in the 1980s after HIV-tainted blood was distributed by the national blood transfusion centre.
   
This law “creates legal uncertainty for LGBT individuals because it makes possible discrimination on the basis of sexual behaviour”, said Etienne Deshoulieres, a lawyer representing both the groups and an individual named in the complaint, who is identified only as “Maxime”.
 
'Humiliated'
 
Earlier this month, Maxime went to give blood at a centre in the Paris suburbs, and while giving his details, said he had been in a relationship for 18 months. 
  
“The doctor told me that was problematic, that I couldn't give blood,” he told AFP, saying he was advised to make a plasma donation instead, given that he had only had one sexual partner for the past four months. 
   
“I felt humiliated,” admitted Maxime, a former member of the security forces who has also filed a complaint with the office of France's human rights defender. 
   
“We are categorised as both 'gay and banned'.”
  
In response, Stephane Noel, who heads EFS, France's national blood donation service, told AFP it was understandable that a prospective donor “could be disappointed” if turned away.
   
Doctors working for the service underwent “significant training” in order to explain “with a great deal of sensitivity and respect… why we advise against” certain donations, he said.
   
Last year, a similar complaint was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on grounds it undermined the fundamental human rights of gay and bisexual blood donors. 
  
“The case is still pending,” said Patrice Spinosi, the lawyer who filed the complaint.
   
According to the latest public study in France, opening up blood donations to gay donors in 2016 has not increased the risk of HIV transmission via blood transfusion.
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