Czech lawmakers reject proposal to enable unmarried women to undergo artificial fertilization

Photo: Filip Jandourek

The Czech lower house has rejected a proposed amendment to the law that would have enabled unmarried women to undergo artificial fertilization using the sperm of an anonymous donor. The proposal sparked heated debate on the discrimination of singles and the right of a child to know who its parents are.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
Under Czech law a woman who wants to undergo artificial fertilization must produce a husband or long-term partner who has to give his consent to the procedure. As a result single women and women living in lesbian partnerships often produce fake partners willing to help them out. Their hopes that this would no longer be necessary were dashed on Wednesday when the majority of MPs voted against the move.

One of the most vocal opponents of the bill, Jitka Chalánková of the centre-right TOP 09 party, accused the bill’s advocates of wanting to create a legal environment where children would be made-to-order in what was turning into a highly lucrative business. She said the right to have a child did not rank among the basic human rights.

“Primarily we should be thinking about the rights of the child, because a child’s right to know who its parents are is one of the fundamental human rights. We need to consider the fate of children who are born out of these circumstances.”

The proposal divided parties across the political spectrum and sparked a storm of controversy. Although it was drafted by a Social Democrat MP, František Adámek, the party’s own health minister, Miloslav Ludvik, came out against it arguing that at a time when half of Czech children were born out of wedlock it would be a mistake to support that trend. Labour Minister Michaela Marksová, one of the few women in the Social Democrat Party leadership, made a passionate defense of the bill to no avail, later saying she felt the debate was something she would have expected to hear from the Christian Democrats rather than her own party.

In the end, the majority of MPs gave the proposal the thumbs down; only 40 out of 153 MPs present voted in its favour. Paradoxically, Ivan Gabal of the Christian Democrats, was one of the MPs who appealed for common sense in reflecting present day reality.

Ivan Gabal,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“As law-makers we need to take into account the reality of the present day, the direction in which society is moving, the changing family model and so on. If we fail to do that we will be completely detached from life and that is the last thing we want. As a law-maker I need to consider the needs of all. I cannot sweep aside the needs thousands of single women, who want children, which moreover this society desperately needs –all in defense of the traditional family model.”

Interest in artificial fertilization grows every year. One in five couples have fertility problems and the number of children born with the help of assisted reproduction is now over four and a half thousand each year. There are currently over 40 assisted reproduction clinics operating in the Czech Republic.