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PM to push on with IVF singles ban

John Howard will push ahead with plans to give states the power to ban single women and lesbians from accessing in-vitro fertilisation services after the High Court yesterday refused an application by the Catholic Church to prevent a Victorian woman using IVF.

In a unanimous decision, the High Court said the church had no standing to appeal against a 2000 Federal Court decision giving all women access to IVF services.

The decision is a setback for the Government, which also came under fire from a majority of the judges over the tactics of federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams, who intervened in the row over Melbourne woman Leesa Meldrum.

After the decision, Mr Williams said the Government would reintroduce legislation allowing the states to limit access to IVF and donor insemination services to married women or those in a de facto heterosexual relationship.

Melbourne gynaecologist John McBain had asked the Federal Court, on behalf of his patient, Ms Meldrum, to rule that a Victorian government ban on single women accessing IVF breached the federal Sex Discrimination Act and was invalid.

Justices Mary Gaudron and Bill Gummow said Mr Williams - who granted the church a fiat to take the matter before the High Court - "cannot have a roving commission to initiate litigation to disrupt settled outcomes in earlier cases, so as to rid the law reports of what are considered unsatisfactory decisions".

Mr Williams was also criticised for giving the bishops a fiat and then intervening on behalf of the commonwealth to contradict some of the church's arguments.

The Attorney-General was ordered to share with the bishops Dr McBain's costs.


Editorial: IVF ruling puts Williams in the dock (The Australian)
Susan Halliday: Church and state on infertile ground (The Australian)
Single women IVF court win (Daily Telegraph)
Church no right to 'meddle' (Daily Telegraph)
IVF case lost on technicality: A-G (Daily Telegraph)
Baby battle looms over IVF ruling (Herald-Sun)
Baby is Leesa's enduring goal (Herald-Sun)
God with me, says IVF case woman (The Advertiser)
Victory for women (Courier-Mail)
Intervention in IVF case ill-conceived (Courier-Mail)
Struggle to keep the dream of motherhood alive (SMH)
Threat to fertility rights after court win (SMH)
Threat to thwart IVF ruling (The Age)

The Australian

19 Apr 2002