Irish LGBTQ+ couples excluded from state-funded fertility treatment scheme: ‘A huge disappointment’

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LGBTQ+ couples in Ireland have been left disappointed upon learning that they will be excluded from a newly available state-funded fertility treatment.

As of next week, Irish couples who have struggled to have children will be able to avail of fertility treatment that may otherwise have been inaccessible, thanks to a new state-funded scheme.

Eligible couples will be granted one full cycle of IVF or CSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) treatment at a private fertility clinic, free of charge.

To be eligible for this life-changing scheme, couples must meet a range of criteria, including; being in a relationship for at least one year, having no children with their current partner, being aged 40 or under as a woman or aged 60 or under as a man, and never having had a sterilisation procedure to prevent pregnancy or previously undergone IVF.

Baby scan lit up in blue and pink
Many Irish couples will now be able to access fertility treatment through state funding. (Getty)

Ireland‘s state-funded fertility care will offer possibilities to couples who had previously faced barriers due to cost.

However, LGBTQ+ couples and single female patients still find themselves restricted when it comes to fertility care, since patients using a sperm or egg donor will not be eligible for state funding.

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This has left many aspiring parents heartbroken as a glimmer of hope for a family is dashed once again.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Sonia Kelly, who is in a same-sex relationship with her partner Tara, said: “I assumed we’d have to pay for the donor sperm, but I wasn’t expecting to be excluded entirely.

Kelly said that learning she wouldn’t qualify for the life-changing state funding “really, really hurt.”

She described her fertility journey as a “race against the clock. It weighs on you very heavily. All you can do is keep going, and keep trying. It would break our hearts not to have a family because we couldn’t afford it.”

IVF Procedure
Patients using a sperm or egg donor will not be eligible for state funding. (Getty Images)

Another LGBTQ+ woman who was banking on the promise of free access to fertility treatment is Shannon Muphy-Howard, who told the publication: “My wife and I have been saving our pennies for the last few years. I was so excited when I heard that the government was giving funding towards IVF, but my excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I realised that we would be excluded.

“I’m trying to stay hopeful that in the next few years when we are ready to start our family, that the rules will have changed. But why are we an afterthought?”

Ireland’s health minister, Stephen Donnelly, has said that the new funding scheme will hopefully help couples who have the greatest chance of success with fertility treatment.

But if that were the case, patients – LGBTQ+ or otherwise – who use donors in their fertility journey would likely be included, given the tests that are done to ensure that the egg or sperm donation they are using is of high quality. Additionally, patients using a donor are less likely to have been diagnosed with fertility issues, and often just need access to fertility care in order to insert a donor egg or sperm.

Murphy-Howard also pointed out that this exclusion of LGBTQ+ couples might send the wrong message with anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric on the rise.

“Besides the pain of being left out of this funding, it furthers the rhetoric of the bigots and homophobic people who say that we are less than, that we don’t matter, that we shouldn’t exist,” she said.

“I know this was not the Government’s intention but it shows how little awareness they have for what life is like for queer people in Ireland.”