Victory for LGBTQ+ couples as Government concedes to equality of access to IVF, by Kate Osborne MP

Jarrow MP Kate Osborne led a debate in Parliament ahead of National Fertility week calling on the Government and NHS England to immediately end the discrimination in IVF provision facing LGBTQ+ couples. Here she explains why.

STARTING a family for any couple is an exciting new adventure, but for LGBTQI+ couples it is a massively costly process, both financially and emotionally.

As a mum of two wonderful boys, one of whom was conceived through IVF, this is a subject close to my heart. Everyone deserves the chance to start a family, no matter their sexuality or gender identity.

Less than 15 years ago, I started the IVF process as part of a same-sex couple. At that time we went through the difficulty of a long waiting list and huge financial costs – but despite these hurdles it was achievable and my wonderful youngest son is now 13.

Those hurdles are now insurmountable for many people in same sex couples.
Ahead of the debate, I hosted a drop in session – joined by campaigners including Stonewall, What Wegan Did Next, LGBT Mummies, Two Dads UK and Stonewall – each sharing devastating accounts of LGBTQ+ people giving up on their dream to become parents because they have ran out of money as LGBTQ+ people are being priced out of having a family.

In recent years life for LGBTQ+ people in the UK has got progressively worse.

Homophobic and transphobic bullying is on the rise, Trans Hate crime has risen, waiting lists for LGBTQ+ physical and mental health care are through the roof and virtually every day we see an attack on our community from this Government.

From attacks on LGBTQ+ refugees, to attacks on inclusive education in schools, to language outright denying Trans rights, this Government has ramped up its war on woke using divisive inflammatory rhetoric that is designed to stoke hate and distract from the mess they’ve made of this country ahead of the next General Election.

Ministers have failed to keep their promise to ban so called conversion therapy in full – allowing the barbaric practice to continue and in terms of IVF NHS waiting lists are longer, the hurdles LGBTQ+ couples have to jump through have increased with a fragmented NHS meaning a postcode lottery in provision – and the financial cost is significantly higher.

It really has been depressing to repeatedly hear from women who are giving up on their dream to become a parent because they have run out of money, LGBTQ+ people being priced out of having a family.

Same sex couples are expected to demonstrate their infertility before the NHS will fund IVF – and to do so, must pay privately for up to 12 rounds of artificial insemination.

I have spoken to many couples who have spent 30/50/60,000 pounds on treatment, and many more who have just given up because they cannot afford to start the process – being priced out of having children.

Many parents starting their journey now simply are not able to afford to complete the process.

The ‘gay tax’ facing same-sex couples starting a family is essentially making LGBTQ+ women financially infertile.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that couples who have been unsuccessful in conceiving after two years should be offered three full cycles of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) for women under 40, and one cycle for women between 40 and 42.

The current requirement is that same-sex couples are expected to self-fund up to 12 Intrauterine Insemination cycles before they are eligible for NHS IVF treatment.

In comparison, opposite-sex couples are not required to self-fund any treatments before being eligible for NHS IVF treatment.

Of the 42 Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) in England – only four offer fertility treatment to same-sex couples without the requirement to pay privately for artificial insemination.

10 more have said they are reviewing their policies but without the guidance from the Government or NHS England, there is not even a timeline for ICBs to make the changes needed.

As part of the debate I also highlighted the Government’s commitment to deal with this inequality is more than a year old.

Ahead of the debate the Government and NHS England responded saying this will be dealt with in their ten year strategy to tackle the issues raised, I was pleased to hear so many MPs from every nation across the UK and cross party argue that we need urgent action because most women cannot wait 10 years for the rules to change.

Responding to the debate Maria Caulfield Minister for Women Health and Mental Health committed to bringing forward secondary legislation to remove discrimination in LGBTQ couples living with HIV, to removing the requirement for screening costs for LGBTQ+ couples and to producing guidelines imminently to remove all additional financial barriers to same sex couples.

I’m really pleased that the minister finally committed to changing laws that discriminate against people living with HIV and recommitted to remove screening costs and all the additional financial barriers for same sex couples.

We need to ensure this is urgently implemented and the “Gay tax” for LGBTQ+ couples that want to start a family is removed for good.

Kate Osborne MP

Kate Osborne is the Labour MP for Jarrow, and was elected in December 2019