Scotland to give lesbians equal IVF rights

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Lesbian couples in Scotland will soon be given equal rights to fertility treatment on the NHS.

Following legal action by one lesbian couple, the government has set up an advisory group which is expected to recommend early next year that lesbians should be routinely allowed access to NHS fertility services.

Caroline Harris and Julie McMullan fought NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde this year for the right to free fertility treatment. The trust had argued that they did not fit the definition of an infertile couple but backed down after they threatened to sue for discrimination.

The trust now allows lesbian couples to be treated for free, along with NHS Borders and NHS Highland.

NHS Lothian provides donor insemination and IVF with a donor to lesbian couples on a “case by case basis”.
A government spokeswoman told The Times: “The current guidelines do not specifically exclude same-sex couples and we know that some NHS boards do provide infertility services to same-sex couples.

“However, we realise that this is not consistent throughout Scotland and we will ask the expert group, once set up, to consider this issue.”

The Scottish Catholic Church has attacked the plans for new rules.

A spokesman said: “It must be galling for people who are suffering from terrible illnesses, who can’t get the treatment they need, to see a frivolous waste of money on people who have chosen a lifestyle that is incompatible with having children.”
A recent Freedom of Information Act request found that lesbian women are still being denied fertility treatment.

According to a survey carried out by Press Association, primary care trusts appear to be turning down lesbian couples for treatment on the grounds that funding is only available for those with fertility problems.

Previously, clinics could turn down lesbians due to the “need for a father” but the law has now been changed.

Out of the 152 PCTs in England, 38 responded to the survey, along with three of Scotland’s 14 territorial health boards and the Health Commission Wales.

None said they had given any lesbian couples NHS-funded fertility treatment, although two PCTs said they were currently considering applications from two women in same-sex relationships.

Seven of those surveyed said they had rejected lesbians couples for fertility treatment.

Twenty-one PCTs said they did not keep any record of sexual orientation and so could not provide any more data.