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Women's lobby to fight Church on IVF case

A prominent women's rights group will take on the Catholic Church in a High Court battle over whether single women and lesbians should have access to IVF treatment.

The court on Monday granted the Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL) leave to become involved in a case launched by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

The church is seeking to uphold Victorian laws that would make IVF treatment available only to women who are married or in de facto relationships. The Federal Court declared the laws invalid last year.

In a directions hearing on Monday, Justice William Gummow granted leave for the Women's Electoral Lobby to intervene in the case and set 6 August as a date for further consideration of the application. The case is likely to go before the full bench of the High Court in the August or September sittings.

A spokesperson for the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference (ACBC) pointed out that the WEL was given approval by the High Court to submit its argument because a 'contradictor' was not available from those parties involved in the case when it was before the lower court. She said that whether WEL will have a right to intervene is yet to be determined.

Speaking outside the court, WEL spokeswoman Lisa Solomon said it was the first time a women's lobby group would represent the interests of the public in the High Court.

Another ACBC spokesperson, Dr Warwick Neville, said the issue centred on children's rights.

"For example, under the Family Law Act, which specifies a range of rights that all children have, including children born pursuant to artificial reproductive technology, and those rights range from the right to know one's parents, father and mother," he said.

Justice Gummow gave the Federal Government until 3 August to decide if it wants to intervene in the matter.