Lesbian couple celebrate fertility equality ‘victory’ in landmark NHS legal battle

Lesbian couple Megan and Whitney Bacon-Evans, who are also campaigners for fertility equality, wear brightly colours dressed as they hold each other close and smile for the camera

A lesbian couple are celebrating a “victory” for fertility equality in their legal battle to get equal access to fertility treatments for same-sex couples in England. 

Social media influencers Megan and Whitney Bacon-Evans launched a landmark judicial review in 2021 over the difficult hurdles same-sex couples face when seeking fertility assistance through the NHS. 

Over two years later, the married couple, known collectively online as ‘Wegan’, announced on Saturday (22 July) that they had formally withdrawn their case from the High Court after their local Integrated Care Board (ICB) in Frimley agreed to give LGBTQ+ couples the same access to fertility treatment. 

“Two and a half years after launching legal action, we are pleased to announce that our case has come to an end with a victory,” they wrote. 

“We launched a landmark legal case in 2021 against our local [ICB] to tackle the discrimination that same-sex female couples face when it comes to receiving fertility treatments on the NHS in England.

“We are withdrawing our legal action as Frimley ICB recognise the need to update their policy to remove the inequality between same-sex female couples and cis heterosexual couples. 

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“This combined with the government’s commitment to removing the barriers to accessing IVF for same-sex female couples in 2023 leaves us feeling very hopeful for the future of LGBTQ+ families.”

The couple launched their fertility equality campaign in 2020 after discovering the barriers and financial burden placed by many NHS groups on same-sex couples and single people with wombs seeking fertility treatment.  

The lesbian couple learned that their local NHS trust required them to pay for 12 rounds of fertility treatment – costing thousands of pounds – to “prove” their medical fertility before becoming eligible for NHS assistance. 

Yet, cisgender, heterosexual couples have to try to conceive for two years before becoming eligible for NHS-funded treatment. 

Megan and Whitney Bacon-Evans said the disparity in equal access to fertility treatment amounted to a “gay tax”. 

Leigh Day solicitor Beatrice Morgan, who represented the campaigners, welcomed the “commitment” from Frimley ICB to introduce a new policy and hoped it will “do everything in its power to address the inequality currently faced by same-sex couples trying to start a family”.

“Whitney and Megan’s tireless campaigning and perseverance with the legal claim has opened up a space for discussion about this issue and has resulted in notable progress towards removing discriminatory barriers that prevent lesbian couples from accessing fertility treatment,” Morgan said. 

In May, Maria Caulfield, the under-secretary of state for mental health and women’s health strategy, expected the “removal of the additional financial burden faced by female same-sex couples” accessing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) to take effect during 2023. 

Megan and Whitney Bacon-Evans said in their Instagram post that they hoped other couples “won’t have to go through discrimination and can have the families that they deserve”.

“This is not the end of our campaigning, simply the next chapter,” they added. “We will continue to ensure that fertility equality is achieved and we hope to have a baby Wegan by our side while still fighting the good fight.”