Access to IVF is still a postcode lottery | Stonewall
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Access to IVF is still a postcode lottery

Everyone deserves the chance to start a family, no matter their sexuality or gender identity.

Unfortunately, as things stand, there are significant practical and financial costs facing many LGBTQ+ people who want to have children. A survey of LBTQ+ women and non-binary people conducted by Stonewall and DIVA magazine found that 36% of respondents who had children had experienced barriers or challenges when starting their family. One of these barriers lies in unequal access to IVF treatment, including the fact that policies vary dramatically across the UK.

Accessing IVF is still a postcode lottery.

The UK Government’s 2022 Women’s Health Strategy pledged to remove additional financial barriers to In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) for female same-sex couples in England. This included the requirement to pay for artificial insemination (Intrauterine insemination or IUI) to prove fertility status before accessing IVF services. In October 2023, Health Under-Secretary Maria Caulfield, said that the implementation of this commitment was a priority area and that it “will not take 10 years for the changes to be implemented.”

However, many regional Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) in England still require female same-sex couples to self-fund at least six cycles of IUI before they are eligible for NHS IVF treatment. Others even require up to 12 cycles of self-funded artificial insemination – this is far beyond what is recommended in guidelines provided by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). In fact, only four of the 42 integrated care bodies have made this change as of April 2024 and no changes have been made in the past year.

With intra-uterine insemination (IUI) costing between £350-£1,600 per cycle at a private clinic, a couple who needed to fund twelve IUI cycles and associated medical fees could have to spend up to £25,000 before being eligible for NHS care. For many in England, this cost is impossible to afford. You can find out more about IVF policies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in this article.

This lack of equitable access to NHS funding for IVF means that conceiving children isn’t an option for lots of people in our communities. With many cis, straight couples qualifying for IVF on the NHS if they have not become pregnant after two years of unprotected sex – at no additional financial cost – this is just another way in which LGBTQ+ individuals are discriminated against in society. Policies around IVF particularly impact bi women, lesbians, and some trans people. You can read more about the unequal burden of proof on LGBTQ+ couples in this article.

Supporting queer families benefits us all.

Aside from the simple fact that we all deserve equal rights, supporting queer families benefits us all. In a world that almost exclusively centres and advocates for the nuclear, cis, straight family unit, the creation of queer families is a radical act. There is beauty in allowing queerness to challenge the landscape of parenting – to expand the limited mainstream view of what a family can, and should, look like. To help us understand that it doesn’t matter who is part of a family – what makes a family is the love, care, and nurture that flows from all loving and caring parents, whether they’re queer or not.

That’s why we’re asking you to exercise your rights as a constituent and write to your MP demanding equal access to IVF for LGBTQ+ people. You can use our tool to see the state of play in your local area, and request that your representative calls on the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to commit to a review of the inequality in access to NHS-funded fertility services in England. We must speak up together to bring an end to the ICB postcode lottery and ensure that lesbians, bi women, and other LGBTQ+ people who want to conceive have equal access to NHS-funded care.

Email your MP now.