Reports Show Lesbian Couples Face More Hurdles When Accessing IVF

Cara Nuttall
Author:
Cara Nuttall
Partner and Family Law Solicitor
Date:
08/07/2021

Reports released recently by the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) and BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) have highlighted the additional costs and hurdles lesbian couples face in accessing fertility treatment.

The HFEA report noted a significant increase in the number of same-sex couples undertaking IVF in the 10 years to 2019, but also showed that the number of those who were NHS funded was significantly less than half those for heterosexual couples, 14% compared to 39%. 

The BPAS survey addressed the varying guidelines across the different health Trusts throughout the country, looking at eligibility for NHS-funded treatment and the disproportionate impact some of those policies have on same-sex couples.

For example, if a couple have to show unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant before they can become eligible, it gives a lesbian couple little option but to try privately funded IVF first. The costs of private treatment have come down in recent years, but they are still significant, and something many people simply cannot afford.

The Risks of Informal Donation and Home Insemination

The added risks are that the hurdles lesbian couples face could force them to consider informal sperm donation and home insemination, which is a cheaper alternative, but carries with it great risks, such as:

  • Depending on the marital status of the receiving couple, the donor could be classed as the legal father when the baby is born, no matter what the intentions of the adults involved. In most cases, the second female parent could only get legal parenthood by adoption, which is the only way that legal parenthood can be transferred outside of surrogacy. Adoption can be costly and difficult, and is not always possible 
  • There is no check or limit on how many families the donor may donate to. The HFEA put limits on how many families any one donor can help create, but no such limits apply to informal arrangements
  • Health checks and screening are not carried out

For some informal donation, especially with a known rather than unknown donor, is still something they are happy to do. But the reports make it clear that it should not be the case that choice is removed and by necessity, informal donation becomes the only option.

The reports show that there is the possibility that some of the policies as they stand could be deemed to be discriminatory, because of the disproportionate impact on same-sex couples.  

It is reported that a petition has already been established to urge a change in policy, but with all the existing turmoil in the NHS, it seems swift change is unlikely.

Research Your Options

Whether undertaking donor conception informally or via a clinic, it is important to research all of the issues carefully.

Most clinics will make sure couples go through counselling to help them consider the implications of donor conception, but there are many other resources and support groups available. The Donor Conception Network is available for anyone, whether you use a clinic, or not.

It is also important to get legal advice to understand how the law will apply in regards to legal parenthood, parental responsibility and rights to any future involvement in the child’s life, such as having contact.

Our expert Family Law Solicitors will be happy to advise you where you need it if you’re considering alternative fertility methods.

For further details of the BPAS report click here.

For initial legal advice call our Fertility Law Solicitors

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