Regulating Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Sexuality and Medically Assisted Reproduction in Portugal †
2. The Portuguese Legal Framework
3. Judges and Lesbian Motherhood
“[…] the desire to have children is a natural thing for almost everybody; so, people who don’t experience such desire are rare. […] It’s natural for everybody to want children. […] It’s something that’s also the expansion of genes. […] There’s a trend to the immortality of genes.”(Judge 1, male)
“I think it’s natural for the human being to think about procreation. Also, because it’s the only way of continuation of the species. And even anthropologically the continuation of the species is a concern for every species, and nature itself always finds ways – sometimes most interesting and most biased—of preservation of the species.”(Judge 2, female)
“Because, in the end, lesbians and gays, that is, male homosexuals, want to have children, too; they simply don’t want to reach that goal the way nature developed for that purpose, which is heterosexual intercourse.”(Judge 1, male)
“I think […] it’s natural for women to think about motherhood even as a matter of self-fulfilment and completion, in short, [of] being complete as human beings.”(Judge 2, female)
“Women have been […], in a way, prepared by educators [to become mothers] and all that, and men—either heterosexuals, or homosexuals—haven’t.”(Judge 1, male)
“I think there’s no reason whatsoever to prevent two women who are married to one another from having a child, from becoming pregnant.(Judge 3, male)
“Because the marriage contract itself was changed by law 9/201010 and, therefore, the sex of the consorts is no longer relevant.”(Judge 4, male)
“[…] I think [...] it’s easier for women to have children than it is to men, since women can always, let’s say, even within the gay community, find ways to procreate, so they don’t need to resort to other means—adoption, or the like—as men do, right?”(Judge 2, female)
“Also because those people can easily, against all odds, become pregnant, can’t they? In the ladies’ case. It’s easy! Isn’t it? Why do they want to spend State money if they can easily get pregnant? […] I think the State has no business supporting financial or medical assistance whatsoever to the ladies. I think it shouldn’t, let’s say, forbid it; but I don’t think the State has to pay for those techniques in such situations. // There’s no money for these things. I think that if couples can and will have those children at their own expenses, then, o.k., it’s a right.”(Judge 5, male)
“[…] man and woman sometimes have characteristics that can be different […] truth is there are complementary characteristics [...] and growing up with those complementary characteristics can be somehow more useful to a child, to a healthy development.”(Judge 2, female)
“I think the role of the father and the role of the mother […] are always important for the child to have a masculine reference, a feminine reference, and for those roles to be, so to speak, assigned to one and the other regarding the way that child is brought up. […] Now, I don’t know […] whether in a lesbian or homosexual family one of them may assume a more feminine and the other a more masculine function so that such roles may somehow be assumed by both in order to compensate that… […] Without losing masculinity and femininity, that’s obvious.”(Judge 5, male)
“[…] I find no obstacle whatsoever to one-parent families for a simple reason: some people are part of one-parent families; only formally are they part of two-parent families. They are part of a one-parent family, really: they live with the mother, or the father, or even a grandmother or grandfather, or an uncle or aunt. […] On the whole, I think the arguments or theories that defend two-parent families are decrepit, or on the verge of becoming decrepit […] in face of social transformations and the complexity of current life. So, I think, actually, […] that it’s better to have a good parent than two bad ones, isn’t it? I mean, be it a father or a mother.”(Judge 4, male)
“[…] I know a lot of widowed parents who were able to raise sons and daughters. […] a [male] friend of mine […] raised his daughters and he raised them well. So, men are not incapable to take on parental responsibilities.”(Judge 1, male)
Conflicts of Interest
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- 1This text is based on empirical data gathered by the first author for her master thesis in Sociology entitled “They should find a man”: Representations of medical doctors and judges about medically assisted lesbian motherhood, developed under the supervision of Professor Alexandra Lopes and publicly defended on November 2012 at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Porto (Portugal).
- 2Bills presented by the Socialist Party (Bill n.º 151/X), the Left Block (Bill n.º 141/X), the Communist Party (Bill n.º 172/X) and the Social-Democrat Party (Bill n.º 176/X) (, p. 9).
- 3The Left Block is a coalition of small left-wing parties.
- 4Considering the 27 member-States of the European Union, there are other prerequisites to MAR besides conjugal status, namely maximum age limit for men and women; the number of cycles accomplished; the number of transferred embryos; and infection by HIV or having a criminal record . Since the current text focuses on lesbian motherhood, conjugal status will be analysed in-depth since it is the criterion that seems to influence more clearly the access of lesbians to MAR, both as single women or as part of a couple. More detailed information on the remaining criteria can be found in the report published in 2010 by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
- 5There are particular cases: e.g., in Sweden, lesbian couples unlike single women are eligible for MAR and in Hungary, single women are eligible as long as they are infertile .
- 6The law defines “stable cohabitation” as a cohabitation of at least two years.
- 7Marital status, age (being at least eighteen years old), and the absence of psychic anomalies are also used to determine the “adequate” beneficiaries of MAR. However, there are other “invisible” conditions to access such medical services. Medical, social, sexual, familiar, and genetic issues are considered in the medical evaluation of potential beneficiaries/donors of gametes  and can lead to additional forms of exclusion. Regarding, for example, social class, the high costs of reproductive health services, the fact that most extant reproductive centres are private (17 out of 27), and low state reimbursement all contribute to exclude the less privileged from the medical assistance to procreate.
- 8Notwithstanding, medical power to decide who “suitable” fathers and mothers are extends beyond scientific or juridical justifications since they can refuse access to MAR based exclusively on ethical reasons: current legislation ensures this through a clause of “consciousness objection”.
- 9Specifically, by the time these statements were released the NCMAP had 9 members as follows: 5 members named by Parliament (1 judge; 5 medical doctors) and 4 permanent members named by the Government (1 physicist; 3 medical doctors). The NCELS had 19 members as follows: 6 members named by Parliament (4 medical doctors; 1 biochemist; 1 philosopher); 5 members named by the Ministers Council (2 medical doctors; 1 psychologist; 1 biologist; 1 judge); 8 members named by other entities (1 bio-ethicist; 2 medical doctors; 1 biologist; 1 lawyer; 1 nurse; 1 philosopher).
- 10The law that legalised same-sex marriage.
© 2013 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
Machado, T.C.; Brandão, A.M. Regulating Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Sexuality and Medically Assisted Reproduction in Portugal. Laws 2013, 2, 469-482. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws2040469
Machado TC, Brandão AM. Regulating Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Sexuality and Medically Assisted Reproduction in Portugal. Laws. 2013; 2(4):469-482. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws2040469Chicago/Turabian Style
Machado, Tânia Cristina, and Ana Maria Brandão. 2013. "Regulating Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Sexuality and Medically Assisted Reproduction in Portugal" Laws 2, no. 4: 469-482. https://doi.org/10.3390/laws2040469