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“These restrictions imply that gays and lesbians are second-class citizens and that a child has to be raised in a conventional family,” said Angelo Berbotto, a lawyer and acting secretary of NELFA, Europe’s largest organization for gay and lesbian families.

Opponents say national health systems are not obligated to allow artificial reproduction techniques for same-sex couples.

“The desire to be a parent does not create the right to have children,” said Gregor Puppinck, director general of the European Center for Law and Justice, a Christian group that lobbies European lawmaking bodies.

“What’s lost is the best interests of the child,” Puppinck said. “The child has a right not to have two fathers or two mothers.”

Dr. Heinz Strohmer, a fertility doctor at a Vienna clinic, said most of his clients needing egg or sperm donations were more concerned about the logistics of getting treatment abroad than challenging Austria’s law banning them.

“The only question they have is if we can organize everything for them,” he said. Strohmer often works with clinics in the Czech and Slovak republics and Spain to get around the Austrian rules on IVF.

When Italian residents Giuseppina La Delfa and Raphaelle Hoedts decided to have a baby, they knew that would mean crossing borders. Needing a sperm donation for IVF that they couldn’t get in Italy, the lesbian couple went to Belgium for more than a dozen cycles of fertility treatment. La Delfa gave birth to daughter Lisa-Marie in 2003.

“It was very difficult and it cost a lot of money, but it was the only way,” said La Delfa, a 49-year-old French teacher. “Nothing was more important to us than her.”

La Delfa considers the restrictions imposed on IVF for lesbian and gay couples not only archaic, but ineffective.

“They think there’s only one way to be a parent,” she said, of governments that ban fertility treatments. “They don’t realize people will do whatever it takes to have a family.”

For the two women, that meant another IVF trip last year, this time to Spain. Hoedts is currently pregnant with the couple’s second child.

La Delfa said Lisa-Marie, now 8, is proud of her unusual origins.

“I joke with her that her big ears come from her donor,” La Delfa said.



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