Quebec Health Minister Backtracks on Bill’s Controversial IVF Age Limit

Pregnant woman
Only a day after announcing a significant compromise regarding his controversial health care reform bill, it seems Quebec’s Health Minister is already backtracking.

Gaétan Barrette is distancing himself from a major component of the new health care reform bill: a cutoff age of 42 for women seeking in vitro fertilization (IVF).

After much debate and public outcry, Bill 20 no longer places a ban or age limit on women pursuing IVF treatments. Originally, the bill included a provision that prevented women over the age of 42 from receiving treatment. In addition, the bill no longer requires married couples to engage in sexual intercourse for three years before being granted access to fertility aids. Both measures were said to be proposed due to health and safety concerns, though many suspect it was simply a way for Quebec’s government to reduce their IVF costs.

Instead of placing an age limit on IVF treatments, Barrette announced the final decision would now be determined by Quebec’s College of Physicians and their candidate criteria.

“We’re telling the college: You set the criteria because you’ve shown us, all the experts have shown us, that it was even possible to have more [pregnancy] risks before the age of 42 than after 42,” Barrette explained.

Barrette said that while women over 42 would have access to IVF treatments, they would not be eligible to receive a provincial tax credit to offset IVF costs.

“The science has evolved to a point… where age is not an absolute criteria. But when it comes to the budget, the [age] limit will remain at 42,” he said.

Barrette is proposing a total of 72 amendments to the bill; 18 and of those changes will increase access to fertility aids.

Parti Quebecois health critic Diane Lamarre said it was her party that inspired Barrette’s change of heart, but the minister credits the testimonies of expert witnesses who spoke on the proposed measures.

Barrette said he expects Quebecers will begin seeing the benefits of Bill 20 in the near future.

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