We haven’t had a good mindless partisan political stoush on Troppo for ages now. A couple of days at least. So I thought I’d draw readers’ attention to this NT News story and see if it elicits the expected polarised Pavlovian reaction:
A lesbian is pregnant with twins after having to spend $16,000 on fertility treatment interstate because she is barred from getting help in the Territory. Michelle Turner, 32, who is six months pregnant, made four trips to a fertility clinic in Sydney.
She and her partner Helen Turner, 29, could not use Repromed at Darwin Private Hospital because it is Territory Government policy not to allow same-sex couples access to fertility treatment. Michelle yesterday accused the Government of “hypocrisy” over its anti-gay policy. “I’ve seen Clare Martin at so many gay events and I think it’s really hypocritical for her to say ‘vote for me because I like you’ but then not change policies that are blatantly discriminatory,” she said.
Fertility treatment in the Territory is open only to heterosexual couples who have been unable to conceive for 12 months. …
The Turners had to make four trips to Sydney, costing about $4000 each time including accommodation and flights, before the donor insemination worked.
The same treatment at Repromed in Darwin costs about $920 per cycle.
What do readers reckon? Should fertility treatment be available only to the unable or the unwilling as well?
Personally, I don’t have a problem with Michelle and Helen accessing fertility programs if they’re paying full tote odds for the service. After all they could always resort to self-help remedies, with the aid of an obliging bloke, an empty vegemite jar and a turkey-basting brush. Or even, God forbid, make the supreme sacrifice after a liberal application of Bailey’s Irish Cream to stifle the revulsion. So what’s the problem with taking the iccy bits out of the whole process and conceiving with a semblance of dignity?
I wonder why Michelle and Helen didn’t challenge the legal validity of the NT’s policy? On the authority of the Federal Court’s McBain decision in 2000, it would seem fairly clearly to contravene the Sex Discrimination Act (Cth). The Catholic Church failed to overturn McBain in the High Court in 2002 (the Justices do actually get it right occasionally), and the Howard government failed to get amending legislation through the Senate that would have allowed State and Territory governments to discriminate in IVF/fertility programs. So there probably isn’t very much doubt that the NT’s policy is unlawfully discriminatory. Did no-one tell Michelle and Helen? Or did they figure it would be cheaper and less hassle to jump on a plane and go south?
Whatever the explanation, it’s a pity. I strongly suspect that the Martin government would be sympathetic to their position, and would have “run dead” in defending any litigation (although the same probably couldn’t be said for the Catholic Church). One suspects that Clare Martin has simply taken the pragmatic view that doing nothing and leaving the existing policies of the previous CLP government in place is the politically safer option, while quietly hoping that someone does the government’s job for it and launches a successful challenge so the Supreme or Federal Court can incur the odium of the Catholic Church and other religious conservatives for reforming the law. There has to be a real prospect that the Howard government will revive its SDA amendments once it gets control of the Senate come July, but it’s unlikely they’d do so retrospectively, so a successful challenge before the SDA is amended would probably secure equality for prospective gay parents in the long term.
In fact, whether Howard revives the anti-gay (and single) IVF amendments to the SDA once he controls the Senate will be an interesting test of whether he really DOES intend to adopt an American-style neocon approach and pander to the religious right, or was just trying to wedge the ALP when he introduced the amendments in the wake of the original McBain decision.