Couples in Victoria will no longer be subjected to police and child protection order checks before undergoing IVF, scrapping a practice patients have labelled "unfair, humiliating and a cause of distress".
The Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2020 passed through the Parliament last week, in a move expected to impact an estimated 25,000 women and their partners who access assisted reproductive treatment in Victoria each year.
For Gabrielle Williams, State Member for Dandenong and the Minister for Women, Minister for Prevention of Family Violence and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, it's a cause close to her heart.
"I've spent years undergoing IVF and other forms of Assisted Reproductive Treatment," Ms Williams wrote in a Facebook post, adding that each positive test made it feel like the "countless injections, fatigue, nausea, tears, and the almost unbearable rollercoaster of hope and despair" was worth the pain.
"But - despite what you see in the pictures below - I still don't have a child of my own," she continued. "The second line in those tests, and several others, gradually faded over days or weeks."
As Ms Williams notes, however, the pain began well before the physical and emotional side-effects.
"It started when, during my first consultation, I was told I needed to complete a police check to determine my eligibility for treatment," she wrote. "My sisters didn't need to do that when they had their kids, and neither did my friends. It felt like my fitness to be a parent was being questioned because of my infertility - something I have no control over."
Describing the process as "embarrassing and demeaning", Ms Williams said it came at a time when she already feeling low.
And she's not the only one.
"This is the experience of tens of thousands of women every year in Victoria," Ms Williams continued. "But last night we changed that when the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2020 passed through the Parliament. There will no longer be a need for women or couples to withstand the judgment and humiliation inherent in the police check process."
Noting that while the law may have been well-intentioned, Ms Williams added: "but it was ultimately wrong. And now we've fixed it.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews also shared Ms Williams' words.
"Last week, we ended the unfair, outdated requirement to get a police check in order to access IVF," Premier Andrews wrote. "This is why it matters."
Speaking to Essential Baby, Ms Williams explained that by removing police checks, we are effectively removing unacceptable discrimination between people who can conceive naturally and those who need extra help through assisted reproductive treatment. "It defies logic to have a system in place that treats those with fertility challenges as a greater risk to children than those who do not," she says. "By the time somebody has made the decision to pursue assisted reproductive treatment, they have likely already had a tough journey. So removing one extra barrier makes a big difference – emotionally and financially."
And while Ms Williams notes that child safety remains a priority, she adds, "we continue to safeguard children through other measures"
"The reality is that since the original IVF police check requirements were put in place ten years ago, the regulatory landscape for safeguarding children has been enhanced significantly."