A lesbian couple and popular social media influencers have filed suit against a branch of the National Health Service (NHS) in England, alleging that restrictions placed on fertility treatment for lesbian couples and families are discriminatory.
The Guardian reports that Megan Bacon-Evans and her wife Whitney, known as “Wegan” to their 220,000 social media followers, have alleged that the clinical commissioning group (CCG) Frimley financially penalizes same-sex couples seeking fertility treatment. Frimley guidelines require that same-sex lesbian couples — as well as single women and people with wombs — pay for 12 IVF or intrauterine insemination treatments to establish infertility before the NHS provides financial aid. The cost for such treatments can exceed 30,000 British pounds (around $40,000 USD) amounting to a “gay tax.”
Heterosexual couples are required to attempt conceiving on their own for two years before the NHS provides such financial assistance, the Guardian reports.
“We’re doing this for every LGBT+ couple who had to give up on their hopes and dreams of creating a family,” Bacon-Evans wrote in an Instagram post. “If found to be unlawful, this could positively impact the lives of tens of thousands, or even hundred of thousands, of LGBTQ+ people embarking on their path to parenthood now & in the future to come.”
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She added, “it is time for discrimination to end and for there to be equal treatment with heterosexual couples in the healthcare system.”
The couple, which has secured the law firm Leigh Day to represent their case, also has the support of UK Stonewall, a leading LGBTQ+ rights advocacy organization, and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).
According to the Guardian, a BPAS report published earlier this year found that 76% of CCGs in England require lesbian couples and single individuals to undergo between three to 12 private fertility treatments before receiving help from the NHS.
“These restrictions amount to a tax on LGBTQ+ families, and the impact can be truly devastating,” Marta Jansa Perez, director of embryology at the BPAS, told the newspaper. “The need to reform is urgent. We are proud to stand with Whitney and Megan in their fight for fertility equality, and we applaud their courage for publicly sharing such a personal struggle.”