Due to current guidelines from the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, it is significantly harder for same-sex couples in England to get free NHS treatment for in vitro fertilization than heterosexual couples.
According to Forbes, the NIHCE guidelines state that a woman can only get free IVF treatment on the National Health Service (NHS) after not becoming pregnant for two years of unprotected sex.
For someone in a same‑sex relationship, the guidelines say they can only get assistance “after 6 cycles of artificial insemination” have failed. And in many areas of the U.K., the NHS does not fund fertility treatments that involve a surrogate, which means gay men are effectively excluded from the treatment option altogether.
Same-sex couple Stacey Pearson and Danielle Beazer said they had to shell out tens of thousands of pounds to access the same IVF treatment that would’ve been free to a straight couple.
“It is discrimination against LBGTQ people,” Pearson told Forbes. “We have to pay upwards of £10,000 before even attempting to get any NHS funding. Heterosexual couples don’t need to pay this much.”
Access to free IVF treatments in the U.K. also depends on where a person lives. In Scotland, all women get three free IVF attempts on the NHS, in Wales, it’s two attempts, and in Northern Ireland females get one attempt.
In England, the NHS is broken up into different trusts based on postcodes, so whether someone can get free IVF at all on the NHS depends on precisely where they live. Since there are different requirements at each NHS trust across England, residents can also be denied NHS-funded IVF for many different reasons, including if their partner already has a child, or if their BMI is too healthy, according to Forbes.
In 2019, U.K. Health Minister Matt Hancock told PinkNews that “sexual orientation should not be a factor in access to IVF,” and said he would review the system. However, two years on, the system remains unchanged.