Quebec Ponders the Ethics of Publicly Funded IVF

Is it ethically questionable for two men who want to co-parent a child to conceive their child through in vitro fertilization (IVF)? Apparently it is, according to Quebec’s new Liberal health minister.

The controversy arose when comedian and radio host Joël Legendre delivered the news that he and his partner were expecting twins through IVF and the generosity of a surrogate, and they had convinced the Quebec health insurance board to cover the almost $5,000 medical costs.

Quebec’s recently elected health minister, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, has previously criticized the program, demand for which has far exceeded initial estimates since the province first began to offer publically funded IVF.

Barrette said there’s a difference between a surrogate and a sperm donor, and that IVF raises ethical questions about the exploitation of women’s bodies, though Legendre has said on his radio show that the province funding IVF for lesbian couples and not gay male couples is discriminatory.

“Technically it may be discrimination,” Barrette said, “but when you look in depth, you say, wait, maybe there is a reason for this discrimination.”

Public discourse around ethics of IVF scenarios of all kinds is important, but when medical programs exclude one group of people over another—and a health minister calls that practice “technically” discrimination—it’s discriminatory, and deserves to be addressed in a reasonable manner.

The fact that Legendre is already a parent should help. In 2006 he adopted his son, Lambert, from Inner Mongolia, and apparently when he and his partner go to court to legally adopt the twins, his partner will also become the parent of Legendre’s son.

Of course, dissenting voices abound: “Is there such a thing as ‘the right’ to have a child?” asks one Globe and Mail columnist in relation to Legendre’s situation. “And what about the right of a child to know his or her origins? Should society condone the use of a female body as a hothouse for babies by financing the in vitro procedure with public money?”

Clearly, this is a conversation that needs to happen.

+ Photo credit: Image of embryo by Eugene Ermolovich (CRMI) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Posted by Michael Lyons

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