Exploring parenthood: Alternative pathways for lesbian couples seeking to have children
Anna and Meike, a married couple, had a strong desire to start a family. By chance, they stumbled upon a Danish fertility clinic that could help them make their wish a reality. Three years later, they are expecting their second child. Here is a report on their remarkable journey and experience.
Across Europe, there are significant variations among countries in terms of legislation, costs, and available options for fertility assistance for lesbian couples. In Germany, the process involves psychological evaluations, lengthy waiting periods, and high expenses. Anna and Meike Kretschmer, a couple residing in southern Hesse, encountered these challenges and made the decision to pursue their dreams outside the country three years ago.
"Having children held a special place in our hearts, and it was crucial for us to be treated with the same dignity and understanding as any other couple longing to have a child. Unfortunately, in Germany, the fertility treatment journey for lesbian couples is often filled with lengthy procedures and obstacles, and discrimination within the healthcare system is not uncommon. That's why we embarked on thorough research to explore options beyond Germany and, by a stroke of luck, we discovered Dier's clinic in Denmark. It might sound like a cliché, but the moment we came across it, we instinctively knew that this was the path we wanted to take – Denmark was where we wanted to be," shares Meike Kretschmer.
7,500 euros for fertility treatment in Denmark
In early 2023, shortly after Christmas, Anna and Meike returned to Denmark, where Anna underwent another insemination procedure. As a result, she is now expecting their second child. The fertility treatments for their first child and Anna's current pregnancy amounted to approximately 7,500 euros in Denmark. Opting for infertility treatment in Germany would have cost them double to quadruple that amount.
"The cost range for fertility treatment in Germany falls between 10,000 and 20,000 euros. While money shouldn't be the sole determining factor when wanting to have a child, the significant price difference of only a quarter in Denmark compelled us to consider this option," explains Anna Kretschmer. "However, the main distinction for us was that in Denmark, insemination could be done without hormone treatment, which is not possible in Germany. It was crucial to me that the process be as natural as possible," she adds.
Dier's clinic, located in Aarhus in central mainland Denmark, attracts a significant number of clients from Germany, accounting for 70 percent of their clientele. Furthermore, data from the Danish National Board of Health reveals that nearly half of all women undergoing donor sperm insemination in Denmark are from foreign countries.
"It may come as a surprise that there is such a significant disparity between the neighboring countries, but our German clients consistently share a similar sentiment: undergoing fertility treatment in Germany as a lesbian couple or single individual is inconvenient and exorbitantly expensive," explains Liza Diers, director and owner of the Diers Clinic and a mother of three children conceived through donor sperm. She continues, "When combined with our hormone-free treatment approach, it's no wonder that many Germans choose to pursue their dream of having a child abroad."
Same-sex couples and children
In 2019, Germany had approximately 142,000 same-sex partnerships, as reported by statistics. Since October 1, 2017, same-sex couples in the country have been legally able to marry. Out of these partnerships, around 52,000 couples (37 percent) took advantage of the opportunity to marry, known as "marriage for all," with 54 percent of these marriages being between men.
Additionally, around 34,000 same-sex couples (24 percent) were in registered civil partnerships in 2019, with 59 percent of these partnerships being led by men. Over time, there has been a consistent increase in the number of same-sex partnerships. From 2009 to 2019, the recorded number of same-sex couples more than doubled from 63,000, representing a growth of 125 percent.
In 2019, there were 15,000 same-sex couples with children in Germany. Out of these couples, 89 percent were in same-sex partnerships between women. This means that a total of 22,000 children were living with same-sex parent couples. Among these children, 19,000 were under the age of 18.
Adoption among same-sex couples
In 2011, the number of children living with same-sex parents in Germany was less than 4,000. By 2018, this number had quadrupled. However, it's important to note that even though the law allowing lesbian couples to undergo fertility treatment was enacted in 2020, many lesbian couples and single women still feel discriminated against by the healthcare system.
In addition, lesbian couples who wish to adopt often face a lengthy process. The non-birth mother in the couple is required to undergo psychological tests and home visits as part of the adoption procedure. These additional steps can contribute to the overall feeling of discrimination experienced by lesbian couples in their pursuit of starting a family.
"The adoption process is an emotionally challenging phase. While we were excited to welcome our son Levi and get to know him, we also found ourselves in a waiting position where I had no legal rights over him. Dealing with the uncertainty during that time was difficult. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have a relatively quick adoption process, but for others, it can take up to two years. It's frustrating and hard to understand why German legislation lags behind, denying us the same rights as everyone else. In other countries, these rights are granted. It's no surprise that people are seeking solutions and knowledge from abroad," explains Meike Kretschmer.