The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has announced that female same-sex couples will no longer have to undergo self-funded fertility treatment before being considered from NHS-funded IVF.
The announcement came as part of the Women’s Health Strategy for England, a first-of-its-kind survey to address the barriers women face with regards to healthcare access. Female same-sex couples had previously been required to complete multiple rounds of self-funded fertility treatments before applying for NHS-funded treatments, which could cost up to 20,000 British pounds (approximately $24,170), Yahoo! News reports.
By contrast, opposite-sex couples are eligible for NHS-funded fertility treatments after trying for two years to conceive.
“We are also aware that the interpretation and implementation by the NHS of the access criteria for female same-sex couples has also been variable, placing greater financial burdens on female same-sex couples, and, in some instances, led to difficult choices about family formation,” the report states. “We will relieve those additional burdens, so that there is no requirement for self-funding and the NHS treatment pathway for female same-sex couples will start with [six] cycles of artificial insemination, prior to accessing IVF services if necessary.”
“We are absolutely delighted that the government has committed to removing discriminatory barriers to IVF for female same-sex couples,” said Marta Jansa Perez, the director of embryology at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), as reported by Yahoo! “Fertility services are crucial in supporting the development of different family structures.”
She added that research by BPAS “has found that female same-sex couples and single women are disproportionately impacted by policies which require that they self-finance costly, and less effective, artificial insemination, in some cases for at least two years, before becoming eligible for funded IVF.”
In November 2021, lesbian social media influencers Megan Bacon-Evans and her wife Whitney sued a branch of the NHS over its handling of female same-sex fertility treatments.
The couple celebrated news of the NHS policy change in a post on Instagram, but added that questions remain about how the policy would be applied to “single women, trans men [and] women, age, BMI,” and gay male couples.
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