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IVF laws not sexist: professor

Briefs

Cite as: (2003) 77(9) LIJ, p.14

Inconsistencies in the application of IVF laws and other reproductive technologies were not gender based, University of Melbourne law professor Loane Skene said.

Speaking at the third Lesbia Harford Oration on 23 July, Professor Skene said that while reproduction legislation in Victoria seemed unduly restrictive it did not mean it was unfair in the way it treated men and women.

“If [the man] needs to resort to donor sperm so that we can have a child, the same laws apply to us both, whether I have ordinary sexual relations with the donor or inseminate myself with his sperm ...

“And if a man wants to adopt a child, the laws are the same [for both genders].”

She said there were inconsistencies in what reproductive activities were covered by regulation. For example, she said, a woman may use contraceptives and be sterilised or unsterilised without being subjected to the law, while other measures such as adoption and IVF were regulated.

Professor Skene spoke before a crowd of about 40 practitioners at the Melbourne Town Hall.

The turnout was disappointing considering the two previous speakers at the biennial event – Supreme Court Chief Justice John Harber Phillips in 1999 and High Court Justice Michael Kirby in 2001 – drew more than 150 people.

Professor Skene is Professor of Law at the University of Melbourne’s law and medical faculties, and is deputy vice-president of the university’s Academic Board. She has chaired the Australian Institute of Health, Law and Ethics for five years and is deputy director of the Centre of Law and Genetics.

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