Australian Court Rejects Church´s IVF Bid on Technical Grounds

Issue Is Up to the Politicians, Says Bishops´ Aide

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CANBERRA, Australia, APRIL 19, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The High Court rejected on procedural grounds a bid by the Catholic Church to prevent single women and lesbians from having babies through treatments such as in vitro fertilization.



In the wake of Thursday´s decision, a research fellow with the Australian Catholic Bishops´ Conference, Dr. Warwick Neville, said the ruling did not tackle any of the substantive issues.

He says rights of children and questions of inconsistency between the federal Sex Discrimination Act and Victoria´s laws will have to be taken up by others.

"It left all of those balls to be juggled by politicians so we watch with some interest as to where and how the rights of children, families, doctors and everyone else will be adjudicated in the various political courts now," Neville said.

A panel of seven judges dismissed a suit brought by the bishops´ conference to prevent a single woman, Leesa Meldrum, 40, from undergoing IVF treatment in Victoria, the second most populous state.

Two years ago, Meldrum won a case in a lower federal court where she challenged a Victorian state law that banned single women and lesbians from IVF treatment and artificial insemination. The federal court ruled that the state law contradicted federal law against sexual discrimination. Federal law prevails when it conflicts with state law.

The Catholic Church, supported by Prime Minister John Howard´s government, sought to overturn that judgment and filed a case with the High Court, Australia´s paramount legal tribunal.

On Thursday, the High Court found the bishops´ case was beyond its jurisdiction despite the federal government issuing a fiat enabling the conference to bring its case to the High Court.

It is almost two years since the Prime Minister said he would legislate to allow states to discriminate against single women and lesbians when it comes to IVF. The courts, in effect, have sent the issue back to the legislators, but it remains to see what they will do.