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2010 National LGBT Conference
30 July 2010

The introduction of the Human Fertilization and Embryology (HFE) bill in 2008 removed the requirement on staff working in fertility clinics to consider the need for a father and replaced it with the need for supportive parenting when considering eligibility for treatment.

This seemingly opened the door for lesbian and bisexual women to access publicly funded fertility and conception services. Medically assisted conception services offer a range of benefits to lesbian and bisexual women and their children such as health screening, counselling and legal protection.

Under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (2006) discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services is illegal. However, lesbian and bisexual women in Northern Ireland are reporting that they have been refused access to fertility treatment on grounds that are not “medically infertile”.

Currently the HFE bill states that unless a medical infertility is detected or a couple fail to become pregnant after a minimum two years of sexual intercourse where no contraceptive has been used publicly funded treatment will not be granted. This is clearly heterosexist as single lesbian and bisexual women and women in same-sex relationships can never meet this criterion.

In Scotland 2009 a lesbian couple successfully challenged their local National Health Service (NHS) branch Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) for discrimination and had the decision not to allow them publicly funded fertility treatment over turned setting a precedent for future challenges to be made to other NHS branches.

Conference calls upon the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Committee to:

1. Work with the Health Care Service Group and Women’s Committee to highlight the case won in Scotland and raise awareness of the issues facing lesbian and bisexual women who attempt to access NHS fertility treatment;

2. Work with regional groups to campaign for consistent equality of access to publicly funded (NHS) services for lesbian and bisexual women across the UK;

3. Request that the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority produce specific guidance for lesbian and bisexual women on their website;

4. Write a feature article in Out in UNISON detailing the benefits of assisted conception for lesbian and bisexual women in terms of their physical and mental health, and the legal protection it provides.