French lesbians take Belgian 'baby train'

2013-01-11 11:02

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Brussels — As France braces this weekend for giant protests against gay marriage and adoption, neighbouring Belgium has become a haven for French lesbians, who flock there in their thousands to conceive babies they are denied at home.

Around 2 000 babies conceived in Belgium through artificial insemination by donor are thought to be born each year to French lesbian couples, who are not eligible to undergo the procedure in France.

"We have seen a sharp increase in demand over the past three years. The word is getting around in France, our patients are passing the message along," said Professor Michel Dubois at the University Hospital of Liege, in the southeast of the country.

The children thus conceived even have a nickname - "Thalys babies" - after the high-speed train service between Brussels and Paris on which their mothers shuttle back and forth - sometimes for years - in their quest to become parents.

Plans by France's Socialist government to extend marriage and adoption rights to gay couples have proven deeply divisive, igniting fierce protests from opponents including Catholic and Muslim leaders, with a new mass rally planned in Paris for Sunday.

Reflecting the heated debate, ruling party lawmakers agreed on Wednesday to drop an amendment expanding access to artificial insemination services from the same-sex marriage legislation.

Mecca of sorts

By contrast Belgium, which has allowed same-sex civil marriages since 2003 and prides itself on its gay rights record, artificial insemination is available to all "regardless of civil status or sexual orientation" under a 2007 law.

The country has become a mecca of sorts for lesbian couples, with 18 centres nationwide offering the procedure and catering to an overwhelming majority of French women.

"French mothers accounted for 80% of the 833 artificial insemination cases we handled last year," said Dubois.

At the largest hospital in Brussels, the Erasmus University Hospital, demand is such that it allows only two days a year for patients to phone and arrange consultations.

"In just an hour and a half, all the appointments available for the next six months are taken. That causes a lot of frustration but there is nothing we can do about it," said Anne Delbaere of the hospital's fertility clinic.

Those French lesbians who manage to get an appointment then embark on a long, difficult and sometimes painful journey but when things go right, it is worth the agony, they say.

Expense

"It was torture but we happily forgot all about that when Achilles was born," said Katell Thepault, a midwife from near Nantes in western France.

"It took more than three years, with dozens of trips back and forth to Brussels for what turned out to be nine artificial inseminations and two in-vitro fertilisations," Thepault, aged 35, said.

Everything, her personal life with her partner and her working career, all revolved around these trips.

"It was impossible to know in advance when we would have to go to Brussels. We were given only 48 hours notice. We would drive at night, for eight hours," she said.

And the cost?

"It was really expensive. We nearly gave up when the artificial insemination did not work and we had to try the in-vitro procedure," at a cost of about €3 000, Thepault said.

Hypocritical

For a simple insemination the cost ranges from €350 to €500.

For Marie, also mother to a 'Thalys Baby', "it was galling to have to spend so much money when [French] heterosexual couples get the cost reimbursed".

"It would be much less hypocritical if women could get this service in France because the politicians know very well that we go to Belgium or Spain for it," she said.

Even in Belgium, there are some limits to the principle of open access for lesbians.

Some fertility centres have traditional links with the Catholic church - a powerful opponent of the French government's plans - and so prefer not to take on lesbian couples.

Other medical centres limit the help offered to French and other foreign mothers so as to ensure there are enough services available to local women.

Reality


Brussels' Erasmus University Hospital accordingly treats only perhaps a 100 foreign women a year.

"It is a decision we had to take because of a shortage of sperm donors and a sharp increase in demand for help in cases not caused by infertility problems," said Delbaere.

Delbaere says she cannot understand the French reluctance to grant lesbians access to medically-assisted procreation, which is offered only to heterosexual couples facing fertility problems.

"It seems to me that they just do not want to accept a reality which has been there for a long time now.

"These children, these families are there now, whether one likes it or not. Why continue to deny it?"

Read more on:    belgium  |  france  |  gay rights
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
12 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Salt River - 17:55 PM
    Road name: Victoria Road / Main Road Outbound
    DELAYS between Sir Lowry Road and the N2 Highway
  • Tuesday Strandfontein - 17:43 PM
    Road name: Strandfontein Road Southbound
    SLOW TRAFFIC between Pelikan Park and Spine Road
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Pre-order the Xbox One

Get this all-in-one entertainment system with live TV, movies, social networking and gaming. Pre-order now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 8520

Wi-Fi enabled With the BlackBerry Curve 8520 connect to your home...

From R1100.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It may be hard to avoid an argument or heated conversation today. Someone may be stirring things up and testing your patience. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.