Medfem Welcomes Equal Rights for Lesbian Parents of Artificial Insemination Children

Recently, a South African court recognised the rights of both partners in lesbian couples with children conceived through artificial insemination.

Medfem Fertility Clinic welcomes this decision as we wholeheartedly support the rights of all couples to experience the joys of parenthood, including the many lesbian couples we have assisted in building their families at our fertility clinic.

In this article, we look at the details of this landmark court ruling; discuss the reproductive options available to lesbian couples; and provide an overview of Medfem Fertility Clinic’s track record in assisting lesbian couples to make their family dreams a reality.

Thanks to a landmark ruling in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, both partners in a lesbian couples will now be recognised as equal parents of their children conceived through artificial insemination (AI).

Court ruling

Up to now, only the woman carrying the child was legally regarded as the mother. Before the court ruling, the husband of the mother who was artificially inseminated was automatically regarded as the father of the child. As such, the lesbian partner of a woman carrying the child did not enjoy any legal recognition as a parent of the child.

In this way, the law discriminated against same-sex female couples by not automatically assigning parental responsibilities and rights to both partners in terms of the legislation, and providing no legal certainty regarding the non-carrying partner’s rights and responsibilities towards the child.

One lesbian couple decided to challenge this outdated law by taking the matter to court. They argued that things have evolved regarding same-sex partnerships, and the law had not kept up with this.

The court has ordered that the details of the two mothers may not be revealed, but it is known that while unmarried both applicants want to have children of their own and had decided on artificial insemination as the treatment option to achieve this dream. The two women are both regarded as part of their families by their relatives on both sides, and are considered to be a permanent couple by their families, friends and their broader community.

The court declared that Section 40 of the Children’s Act is inconsistent with the Constitution because it does not include the words “permanent life partner” along with the words “spouse” and “husband”.

Acting Judge C van Veenendaal noted that, although progress has been made in acknowledging gay and lesbian rights, the Children’s Act was lagging in terms of recognising both partners in a lesbian couple as parents of children born through artificial insemination.

The judge also said that for various reasons, some couples preferred not to get married or formalise the partnership, but that this does not take away from the desire of the partners in a permanent, lifelong committed relationship to procreate and establish a family.

The practical outcome of changing the wording of this section of the Children’s Act is that children born from artificial insemination will now be legally regarded as the children of both life partners.

The judge noted that when children are born by artificial insemination and of unmarried parents, it is in the best interest of both the child and the lifelong same sex partners who have children to have legal certainty, this to prevent the children’s rights to family and/or parental care being violated.

Reproductive options available to lesbian couples

In the majority of cases, the reproductive option most suited for lesbian couples is artificial insemination with donor sperm. Fortunately, donor insemination is a simple and safe procedure.

During the artificial insemination procedure, washed sperm is introduced into the woman’s uterus through a thin flexible plastic tube which is passed through the cervix. The procedure is done around the time of ovulation to give the best chance of conception.

Insemination is performed in two ways at Medfem Fertility Clinic. It can be performed during a natural menstrual cycle or a cycle in which ovulation is enhanced by oral medication, or injectable ovulation induction agents that can significantly increase pregnancy success.

Donor insemination also requires the pre-selection of frozen sperm from a known sperm donor, or from a sperm bank.

A known sperm donor will normally be required to undergo a full panel of infectious disease screening, followed by a six-month quarantine of frozen sperm and then retesting of the donor for infectious diseases, before sperm can be deemed eligible for insemination.

The sperm bank at Medfem Fertility Clinic boasts an extensive list of screened anonymous sperm donors to include information such as ethnic background, body build, eye colour, hair colour and skin tone as well as education, profession and hobbies, among other details and attributes. The chosen donor sperm is kept in vials, and can be stored and thawed as required.

Another option for lesbian couples building their families is combining sperm donation with Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF). In the simplest terms, IVF treatment is a process of assisted reproduction where the egg and sperm are fertilised outside of the body to form an embryo, which is then transferred to the uterus to hopefully implant and become a pregnancy. IVF may be suitable for women of advanced reproductive age (older than 35) or those experiencing tubal factor or other types of infertility.

At Medfem Fertility Clinic, many of our patients in a lesbian relationship undergoing IVF treatment choose to share the treatment and parenting experience. This is done by one partner serving as the egg donor while the other acts as the gestational carrier.

Medfem Fertility Clinic’s track record in assisting lesbian couples

Our caring and supportive medical staff at Medfem Fertility Clinic are committed to offering all our patients the best chance of having a baby, regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation.

We have long been treating same sex couples wanting to start a family, and indeed we were one of the very first clinics in South Africa to do so.

We are a progressive and impartial innovative fertility clinic with a long history of working with non-traditional families (same-sex couples, and single men and women) and we have helped many same sex couples to have healthy babies.

At Medfem Fertility Clinic we are committed to supporting our lesbian patients through the entire process of creating their family.

We know that fertility options and issues facing lesbian couples may be quite different from those available to traditional families. In addition to a host of medical treatment options that require a deep understanding, there are financial, legal and emotional obstacles that require special attention and knowledge.

At Medfem we believe in helping you reach your family dream through:

* World-Class Fertility for Everyone – we believe in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone
* A Positive Fertility Journey – It is our joy and commitment to give you a positive outcome to your fertility journey
* Delivered With Empathy & Caring – So you may have a fond memory, of a feeling of empathy, caring and being part of the Medfem family.

If you would like to meet one of our fertility specialists at Medfem Fertility Clinic, simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.

We look forward to meeting you at Medfem Fertility Clinic!


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