France moved Friday towards allowing lesbians and single women to conceive children with medical help, setting the stage for a clash with conservatives who say it would create generations of "fatherless" kids.
To loud applause, France's lower house of parliament approved a controversial draft bioethics law in a move that has already sparked outrage from defenders of the traditional family unit, and even opponents in President Emmanuel Macron's own centrist party.
For now, only heterosexual couples have the right to use medically-assisted reproduction methods such as in vitro fertilisation, commonly known as IVF.
Given the green light by the National Assembly, the bill must also get the go-ahead from the upper house, or Senate, before it can become law.
The National Assembly passed the draft law by 55 votes to 17.
It represents Macron's biggest social reform since coming to power in 2017.
But Macron has acknowledged the political risk he is taking, and is mindful of the backlash six years ago against gay marriage, legalised under his Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande.
A coalition of grassroots religious groups, Catholic figures and right-wing political opponents organised mass demonstrations against Hollande.
About 20 conservative groups have called for a rally in Paris on October 6 against the proposed legal changes they say will "deprive children of their fathers".
Under the bill -- for which lawmakers have suggested a total of 2,500 amendments -- the child of a lesbian couple would have the names of the "mother and mother" on its birth certificate instead of the "mother and father".
'Threatens foundation of humanity'
"The state is going to lie to a child by saying that you are born from two mothers," far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen told RTL radio on Tuesday.
"The state should not lie on a birth certificate... you can say that you are born from an unknown father."
The conservative Le Figaro newspaper said in an editorial Monday that the reform "threatens the foundation of our humanity", while the prestigious French Academy of Medicine has raised worries about a potential psychological impact on children.
Under the proposed law, the country's health care system would cover the cost of the procedure for all women under 43.
It also would allow children conceived with donated sperm to find out the donor's identity when they turn 18, a change from France's current strict donor anonymity protections.
If approved, the law would bring French legislation in line with other European nations such as Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium and Scandinavian countries which authorise medically-assisted procreation for all women.
In France, lesbians and single women who want to have children often travel to fertility clinics abroad, a situation they say is discriminatory.
Supporters of the legislation say fears about its impact are overblown -- it is forecast to benefit about 2,000 women annually -- and insist the mothers will be loving and responsible parents.