This may come as a surprise to you, but although Europe is considered a model for the recognition of human rights, when it comes to fertility treatments, there are still a few European countries where there are many legal barriers that prevent single women and women with same-sex partners from accessing these treatments, not to mention trans and intersex people.
In France, for example, it is only recently that, after a long debate, a law has been passed by the Parliament allowing fertility treatments for women without a male partner. Freezing one’s eggs to postpone motherhood for social reasons was also forbidden, but it is now possible under the new law. In Germany, if you are a single woman or a woman with a female partner you can access sperm donation, but not egg or embryo donation. And if you are a trans person there are no options available to you, as there are no regulations governing access to fertility treatments for transgender people.
Similarly, although in the UK fertility treatments are allowed for both lesbian couples and single women, the fact that, after a change in legislation, children born from donated eggs or sperm can know the identity of their biological parents has led to a significant decrease in donors and donations. And in Italy, women without a partner or lesbian couples are not allowed by law to undergo IVF or IUI treatments.
As you can see, the situation is not very encouraging, and the legal differences in Europe have driven many European women to travel to other countries in order to fulfil their desire for motherhood. Among their main destinations is Spain. The reason for that is that our legal framework is much more permissive, as it allows access to all fertility treatments for women without a partner or with a same-sex partner, and has been so for 15 years, as the current law on assisted reproduction techniques came into force in 2006. Furthermore, the donation of sperm, eggs and embryos in our country is completely anonymous, which encourages donations. On the other hand, the fact that Spain is one of the leading European countries in terms of the number of fertility cycles carried out has led to Spain having highly qualified professionals, prestigious fertility centres with extensive experience and outstanding success rates.
In fact, at Dexeus Mujer more than 20% of the 3,000 assisted reproduction treatments we carry out each year are conducted on foreign patients, mostly from France and Italy, although patients also come from neighbouring countries such as Andorra and Portugal, as well as from the UK, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland and even from the United States.
Now, thanks to the new trans bill launched by the Ministry of Equality, single women and women with gay and bisexual partners will also have access to fertility treatments in our country through the public health system, a right that had been vetoed since 2014, and there are plans to extend this right to trans people with the capacity to carry a pregnancy. The new bill also recognises the right of gay women to adopt their partner’s children, even if they are not married.
This is undoubtedly excellent news, although, at present, the waiting lists for fertility treatments in the public health system are very long. Also, the age limit — 40 for women and 55 for men — and other restrictions, such as the fact that the number of treatments that can be performed is limited, reduce their chances.
Surrogacy, though, is still an unresolved issue. In Spain, the current law on reproduction considers any contract of this type to be null and void, which prevents women with no uterus or other medical conditions and men — male gay couples and single men — from becoming parents through surrogacy. However, the current law does not prohibit or penalise it, so a Spanish citizen can have a child through this method in another country where surrogacy is regulated. It is currently permitted in Canada, the United States (though not in all states), Thailand, Georgia, India, Ukraine, and Greece. Israel has recently announced that, from mid-January this year, gay, transgender, and single men will have access to surrogacy. In Spain, the debate over its regulation is still open. But in any case, it is a reality that will have to be faced, as many Spaniards have travelled to other countries in order to become parents through this option.
One of the main concerns in these cases is registering surrogacy children as Spanish citizens. In this regard, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has established that European states must recognise these children and establish mechanisms for registering them quickly.
In any case, the demand for access to fertility treatments is increasing, so in the coming years, more and more countries are likely to adapt their legislation to the needs of society and make it easier for everyone to access these techniques regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
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