Spain’s lesbians and single women get free fertility treatment back

The conservative party’s treatment restrictions for lesbians and single women were deemed "misogynistic" and counterproductive to a country with one of the lowest birth rates in Europe.

Spain's lesbians and single women get free fertility treatment back
legislation, only couples made up of a man and a woman with one sterile partner got the free treatment. Photos: AFP

Spain's new socialist PSOE government has restored free, public reproductive treatment for lesbians and single women, five years after they were excluded from the scheme by the country’s conservative Popular Party.

The news comes just three weeks after national stats body INE announced that Spain saw more deaths than births in 2017.

Under former Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s legislation, only couples made up of a man and a woman with one sterile partner were able to access assisted reproductive technologies via Spain's public hospitals.

The decision meant single women and lesbians had to pay an average of around €1,000 ($1,300) for artificial insemination in the private sector, Spain's El País newspaper reported on Wednesday. For in vitro fertilization the cost was around €7,500.

“I don’t believe that there not being a male (in the reproductive process) can be deemed a medical problem,” Health Minister at the time Ana Mató famously said, arguing that the exclusion of lesbians and single women was a simple budgetary cut. 

Introduced in 2014, the inequitable measure was rejected by Andalusia, the Basque Country, the Canary Islands and Asturias but remained in place until Pedro Sánchez became Prime Minister last June (some of these regional governments continued to fund the programmes despite opposition from Madrid).

Spain’s Public Opinion and Consumers group FACUA labelled the legislation change as “homophobic and sexist” at the time, whilst ex socialist health spokesperson José Martínez Olmos called the move “ideological” and aimed at excluding couples that weren’t “as God intended”.

By lifting the fertility ban on Friday, Spain’s ruling PSOE sends a clear message of support to the country’s LGBT groups.

In fact Sanchez’s cabinet meeting was deliberately planned to coincide with LGBTI pride celebrations in Madrid.

“Today the misogyny is over,” state secretary for equality Soledad Murillo tweeted.

SEE ALSO: 70,000 doctors to retire in the next decade in ageing Spain 

The measure will come into effect in January 2019, government spokeswoman Isabel Celaá said.

The move also offers some renewed hope to demographic experts alarmed by ageing, depopulating Spain.

There were 391,930 births in Spain in 2017, the lowest numbers since 1996, whilst the birth rate hit 8.4 per 1,000 inhabitants, the worst rate in more than 40 years.

FIND OUT: How Spain became the eldorado of fertility treatment 


Spanish fertility doctors behind world’s first ‘three-person’ baby

A team of Greek and Spanish doctors announced Thursday the birth of a baby using DNA from three people after a controversial fertility treatment that has provoked intense ethical debate

Spanish fertility doctors behind world's first 'three-person' baby
Photo: AllaSerebrina/Depositphotos

The team used an egg from the infertile mother, the father's sperm and another woman's egg to conceive the baby boy, transferring genetic material with chromosomes from the mother to the egg of a donor whose own genetic material had been removed in a process its creators hailed as a medical “revolution”.

A similar DNA-switching technique was used in Mexico in 2016 to avoid transmission of a mother's hereditary illness to her child.   

But the case in Greece is the first time an IVF (in vitro fertilisation) technique using DNA from three people has been deployed to allow a mother otherwise unable to conceive to have a child. 

The baby, born Thursday and weighing in at 2.96 kilos (6.5 pounds), was delivered by a 32-year-old Greek woman who had undergone several unsuccessful attempts at in vitro fertilisation, Greece's Institute of Life said in a statement.

Institute of Life president Dr Panagiotis Psathas, stated: “Today, for the first time in the world, a woman's inalienable right to become a mother with her own genetic material became a reality.

“As Greek scientists, we are very proud to announce an international innovation in assisted reproduction, and we are now in a position to make it possible for women with multiple IVF failures or rare mitochondrial genetic diseases to have a healthy child.”

Dr Psathas added: “Our commitment is to continue to help even more couples facing fertility issues to have children with their own DNA, without having recourse to egg donors.” 

'Will help countless women'

His scientific collaborator of the Institute of Life, Dr Nuno Costa-Borges, also hailed the news.

“The completely successful and safe implementation of the Maternal Spindle Transfer method — for the first time in medical history — is a revolution in assisted reproduction,” Dr Costa-Borges said.

He added that “this exceptional result will help countless women to realise their dream of becoming mothers with their own genetic material.”   

In the Mexican case, the mother had been suffering from Leigh syndrome, a rare illness which affects the developing nervous system and can be fatal. In her case, the disorder had previously caused the deaths of two of her children. 

Using the triple DNA technique to aid in infertility cases raises complex ethical issues, however.

Tim Child, Oxford University professor and medical director of the Fertility Partnership, expressed his concern.   

“I'm concerned that there's no proven need for the patient to have her genetic material removed from her eggs and transferred into the eggs of a donor.

“The risks of the technique aren't entirely known, though may be considered acceptable if being used to treat mitochondrial disease, but not in this situation,” said Child.

 By AFP's Chantal Valery