Victoria to lift IVF counselling restrictions and loosen donor conception rules

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA</span>
Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

The final suite of reforms to Victoria’s assisted reproductive treatment laws are set to come into effect on Monday, making it easier for prospective parents to start or expand their family.

As part of the reforms, the requirement to undergo counselling at a registered assisted reproductive treatment clinic will be scrapped, with prospective parents able to meet with any counsellor who satisfies the requirements.

The state’s health minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, said the change would remove unfair barriers, particularly for rural and regional Victorians, and give prospective parents more freedom to choose the counsellor they wish to discuss their journey with.

Related: ‘IVF is not a choice’: Victoria’s elective surgery restrictions cause heartache for patients

Those opting for donor conception – the process of having a baby using donated sperm or eggs – will also be given more say over how the embryo is managed.

“Victoria has been a world leader in developing assisted reproductive treatments and these reforms are about making them more accessible for all Victorians by removing barriers to people starting or expanding their families,” Thomas said.

Data from the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority’s 2021 annual report shows 15,590 people had fertility treatment across the state last financial year – up 20% on the previous year.

There was also a 23% surge in the number of women freezing their eggs.

An average IVF cycle costs as much as $15,000. About one in every three women who receives IVF has a child as a result of the treatment.

The changes follow a landmark review of the state’s fertility industry, conducted by Michael Gorton and released in July 2019, which found the framework for assisted reproductive treatment was “no longer fit for purpose”. It said it did not adequately put people at the centre of fertility care, nor provide the “access, affordability and quality of care and support that Victorians expect”.

Gorton made 80 wide-ranging recommendations, many of which have already been implemented, including scrapping the requirement to undergo police checks before accessing IVF treatment and the need for separated women to get their estranged partner’s permission to access services.

A person is also able to use the eggs or sperm of their deceased partner in a surrogacy arrangement, giving more surviving partners a greater chance of still being able to have a child.

Changes have been made to allow nurses and other health professionals within registered assisted reproductive treatment clinics to carry out procedures under the supervision and direction of a doctor. Doctors outside of clinics are also be able to carry out artificial insemination.

Email: sign up for our daily morning briefing newsletter

App: download the free app and never miss the biggest stories, or get our weekend edition for a curated selection of the week's best stories

Social: follow us on YouTubeFacebookInstagramTwitter or TikTok

Podcast: listen to our daily episodes on Apple PodcastsSpotify or search "Full Story" in your favourite app

Gorton also recommended the government establish public fertility services and a public sperm and egg bank.

At the 2018 election, the premier, Daniel Andrews, pledged $32m to introduce a number of low-fee bulk-billing clinics in Melbourne and regional Victoria.

Last year’s budget also allocated $70m establish public fertility care services, with work well under way on the delivery.