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ECHR also known as European Court of Human Rights has decided that Austria's laws about IVF (in vitro fertilization) are discriminatory and restrictive, because they violate the right to a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights. What are the Austrian IVF related laws about and why are they discriminatory?

Austrian law allows only homologous in vitro fertilization techniques that use the sperm and ova (technically gametes) of the couple who want a child, with a few exceptions. The law was formulated in a manner to protect children from strange family relations. So called strange family relation are a problem in many countries that allow gamete donation from unrelated third parties. Additionally, the law is supposed to protect women from so-called exploitation. This is a concern of many ethicists because they see a great danger in creating a market demand for female gametes which is turning into a multi-million business.

I think that if woman wants to be exploited, let her be. And I think it is not so much about ethicists worrying about women being exploited, but more about preventing multi-million business which is partly okay, because only the rich (or those who can afford) will have the access to treatment. On the other hand, there is a shortage of female gametes, which partly contributes to the fact European laws prevent commercialization. In October 1999 Austrian Court ruled that law did interfere with the right to respect for family life, but that this was justified in the interests of protecting children from the unusual personal relations common with such procedures, such as having both a genetic mother and a surrogate mother.

ECHR wrote that the law needs to be formulated in a coherent manner and that the judges were not convinced by the government s argument that a complete prohibition was the only way to prevent the risks associated with donor gametes. Additionally, and I agree with them, ECHR said the unusual family relationships are nothing new. There are many families that include family relations that do not follow typical and based on biological parent-child relationship. So called unusual family relationships had existed since the institution of adoption, and they do not pose a threat to a child. Therefore the ECHR awarded 10,000 for each couples.

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