Gay tax on fertility? IVF can be free for heterosexual couples with fertility issues, but not for lesbian couples

It’s Pride month, and it’s disappointing but probably not surprising, that same sex couples still face additional barriers, risks and expense to achieve things that heterosexual couples take for granted. In this case we’re talking about starting a family. 

As more couples require fertility treatment to get pregnant, you’d perhaps expect the requirements for heterosexual and homosexual couples to access IVF and other fertility treatments to be broadly similar. That’s a great big no, unfortunately.

There’s a great essay here by Erika Metzler Sawin, that goes into the issue of same sex parenting in the USA in detail. Although we’re talking about the UK health system, the issues are similar. She states that “Same-sex parented families continue to face social stigma, systemic roadblocks, and political and legal tangles.”

That’s exactly what we’re talking about here. Systemic roadblocks in the form of economic challenges, are making it harder for lesbian women with fertility challenges to access the same kind of treatment available to heterosexual women.

Straight vs gay couples reporting fertility issues

Currently, it’s enough for a heterosexual couple to report to their doctor that they have been trying for a baby for two years. This allows them to access NHS-funded fertility treatment. A lesbian couple however, can have to prove that they have had two to six rounds of intrauterine insemination at their own expense – often to the tune of around ten thousand pounds, in order to qualify.

Some clinical commissioning groups (CDCs) require only 2 IUI attempts, but most require six. Buying sperm to inseminate at home doesn’t count. Obtaining sperm from other sources also doesn’t count. The system believes straight couples who say they have been trying for two years, but it does not extend this trust to female couples. 

Proof of IUI in the form of receipts for thousands of pounds of treatment would qualify them for further IUI (if they meet other guidelines such as age limitations and BMI cut-offs) – which has already failed at least 6 times in order for them to qualify. Only when the IUI fails would they qualify for IVF. A straight couple may qualify for IVF without the need for IUI.

How much is the “gay tax” for lesbians starting a family?

It can cost ten thousand pounds to be a lesbian woman with fertility issues to qualify for treatment on the NHS, but this can be free for heterosexual women in the same postcode

Influencers Wegan have campaigned against this inequality.

One in 7 women faces fertility issues, and many of those women require medical help to get pregnant. We believe lesbian women should have the same access to IVF as straight women, without the additional expense.

What can I do about the gay tax for lesbian women with fertility issues?

There’s a petition for this, which you can sign if you feel strongly about it. You can also write to your local CDC about it, because it is the local bodies that have control over NHS funding for IVF treatments. 

Are you affected by this inequality issue? We’d love to hear from you!