This legislation is to be implemented across England following Stonewall’s successful #IVFForAll campaign
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE VIA PEXELS/MIKHAIL NILOV
Today, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced its first-ever Women’s Health Strategy in a huge win for IVF equality. Aiming to tackle the gender health gap, the legislation lays out the blueprint to remove the need for female same-sex couples to pay for artificial insemination before they can access NHS-based IVF treatment. At present, the artificial insemination process can see couples spending up to £25,000 on treatment to “prove” their fertility status, an inequality which Stonewall’s #IVFForAll campaign has highlighted.
In 2021, lesbian couple Whitney and Megan Bacon-Evans – known collectively as Wegan – took legal action against NHS Frimley after they spent £8000 on donor sperm and compulsory pre-insemination tests. Supported by legal firm Leigh Day, Stonewall and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Wegan argued their case under the eighth and fourteenth article of the European convention on human rights.
“We’re doing this for every LGBTQ+ couple who had to give up on their hopes and dreams of creating a family. If found to be unlawful, this could positively impact the tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ people embarking on their path to parenthood now and in the future to come. It is time for discrimination to end and for there to be equal treatment with heterosexual couples in the healthcare system”, Wegan revealed in a joint Instagram post in November 2021.
Less than one year later and less than one year into the Stonewall #IVFForAll campaign, on which Wegan collaborated, the Women’s Health Strategy is working to remove these barriers for LGBTQI women. The legislation will further impact people with wombs, trans masc and non-binary people included, overseeing £10 million for a breast screening programme and providing 25 new mobile breast screening units for areas experiencing challenges with screening uptake. The policy will further ensure that all doctors are trained to provide the best healthcare for women, introducing mandatory teaching on specific healthcare problems experienced by women for all graduating medical students and incoming doctors.
Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall, remarks: “We are delighted that the UK Government has listened to our call for fair and equal access to IVF treatment. For years, lesbians, bi women and trans people have been forced to pay for up to £25,000 of private healthcare before they can access IVF on the NHS, or face giving up their dream of becoming parents. This is a giant step towards a world where LGBTQ+ people have the same opportunity as everyone else to build a loving, thriving family of their own.”
Minister for Women’s Health Maria Caulfield furthers: “When we launched our call for evidence, women across the country set us a clear mandate for change. Tackling the gender health gap will not be easy – there are deep seated, systemic issues we must address to ensure women receive the same standards of care as men, universally and by default. This strategy is the start of that journey but eradicating the gender health gap can’t be done through health services alone. I am calling on everyone who has the power to positively impact women’s health, from employers to doctors and teachers to industry, to join us in our journey.”
To read more about the Women’s Health Strategy, click here. To keep up with Stonewall, follow them across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To read our deep dive into the state of IVF inequality for LGBTQI women and non-binary people, purchase our March issue here.
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