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Lesbian couple takes CCG to court over IVF discrimination

15 November 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1121

A female same-sex couple is taking legal action over NHS IVF funding policies which they claim discriminate against LGBT+ families.

Megan and Whitney Bacon-Evans have accused their local clinical commissioning group (CCG) of financially penalising them for their sexual orientation and gender. Frimley CCG requires female same-sex couples and single people with wombs to self-fund 12 insemination attempts including six intrauterine inseminations which must take place in a clinic to prove they are medically infertile before becoming eligible for IVF through the NHS. In contrast, cis-heterosexual couples can claim NHS-funded fertility treatments after two years of failing to conceive naturally.

'We're doing this for every LGBT+ couple who had to give up on their hopes and dreams of creating a family. It's time for discrimination to end and for there to be equal treatment with heterosexual couples in the healthcare system,' Megan Bacon-Evans told the Guardian.

After spending £8000 on donor sperm and pre-insemination tests, the spouses launched a petition last year demanding equal access to fertility treatments. Through law firm Leigh Day they have now applied for a judicial review alleging discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. If granted, their case could be heard in the High Court as early as January 2022 and set a precedent for LGBT+ families seeking access to fertility treatment.

The couple, who set up a £10,000 fundraiser to cover potential legal fees are backed by LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall UK and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). BPAS recently released a report suggesting there are hidden barriers for lesbian couples to access fertility treatments (see BioNews 1100).

'These restrictions amount to a tax on LGBT+ families, and the impact can be truly devastating,' Dr Marta Jansa Perez, director of embryology at BPAS, told the Guardian. 'The need for 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.'

The former health secretary Matt Hancock promised a review of the fertility sector in 2019, stating that 'sexual orientation should not be a factor in access to IVF'.

Fertility policies, for patients including single people and people in non-traditional arrangements, will be discussed in two weeks' time – on Wednesday 1 December – at PET's online conference 'Reproducing Regulation: Who Regulates Fertility and How?'.

Conference sessions will include 'All Families Great and Small: Changing Family Forms'. See here for details and registration.

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