Austrians divided about IVF

Four in 10 Austrians oppose a recent suggestion to allow single women and lesbian couples to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Health Minister Alois Stöger said last month single women should get the green light to undergo such a procedure. Federal law keeps them from opting for the treatment. Stöger claimed the current situation “keeps Austria from being a modern European country” in this concern. The minister said talks with his party’s conservative coalition partner, the People’s Party (ÖVP), went well.

Now Karmasin found that 40 per cent of adult Austrians have a different stance to Stöger. The agency, which interviewed 500 Austrians for magazine profil, also found that 46 per cent of people agreed with the health minister who has been under fire for a lack of progress in making Austria’s public healthcare system more efficient.

Survey leader Sophie Karmasin claimed that Austria’s politically muscular Catholic Church would be unable to stop the progressing individualisation regarding ways of living together in the once immensely conservative country. She said it now had to be seen how long the ÖVP would keep its opposing point of view. Experts see chances that the government party’s more liberal forces could herald new faction-internal circumstances as it struggles to win over young, open-minded voters in urban areas.

Stöger explained last week he saw no reason for not letting lesbians and single women have their wish to have children fulfilled by IVF. The minister claimed “many” in the ÖVP were of the same opinion. However, Stöger was quick to add that he could not establish chances for a possible “breakthrough” on the issue.

SPÖ Minister for Women Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek welcomed Stöger’s suggestion as a “long overdue step towards a more modern approach to family life and legal matters in the 21st century. A spokeswoman for the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) warned the minister about allowing “experiments” and the “creation of atypical family constellations.”

Stöger caused a stir in August by suggesting an expansion of abortion services. He said all state-owned hospitals and clinics provided with money from public funds should be ordered to provide abortions. Stöger claimed women were currently “not taken seriously” as not a single one of the public hospitals in Burgenland and the western regions of Tyrol and Vorarlberg were offering induced abortions. Only 12 private clinics and 17 public hospitals offered such services in Austria at the moment, Stöger said.

ÖVP Economy and Families Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner labelled Stöger’s proposal as a “wrong signal”. Chances that the conservative party headed by Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger backs the Stöger idea in a vote in parliament are considered as diminishingly low. ÖVP whip Karlheinz Kopf made clear that he was “strictly against” the health minister’s plans which found the support of the Green Party. A poll by Karmasin showed that 62 per cent of Austrians supported Stöger’s suggestion. With 28 per cent, nearly three out of 10 reject the minister’s vision.

Statistik Austria reported that 37,080 babies were born in Austria between January and June 2011, up by 117 compared to the first half of 2010. Around four in 10 were born out of wedlock, according to the research agency. Austria has the second-lowest birth rate in the European Union (EU) behind Germany, according to Eurostat. The European Commission’s (EC) research agency announced there were 9.1 births per 1,000 inhabitants in the country in 2009. Only neighbouring Germany had a lower rate (7.9) than Austria, where 8.5 million people are living at the moment.

More than 5.3 million children were born in the EU’s 27 member countries in 2009, according to Eurostat. Around 500 million people live in Europe. The figure is set to decline in the coming decades. The population of Africa, Asia and South America is expected to increase strongly at the same time.