This week, a petition on Change.org.uk was launched asking that same-sex couples be granted the same access to IVF treatment as heterosexual couples. But what are the implications of that on an already weak NHS?
The argument made by the woman who launched the petition, Stacey Pearson, is that same sex couples have to pay £6000 for each cycle of IVF treatment, whereas heterosexual couples get 3 free attempts if they are under 40 and 1 free attempt if they are over 40.
Though this petition seems perfectly reasonable, the case against it stands very strong from biological, social and economic perspectives.
Socially, this petition is flawed. The first reason why being that there are over 80,000 children in care in England, who need fostering or adopting. Same-sex couples are allowed to adopt in England, where this petition was launched. In the UK, adoption agencies cannot charge a fee to the adopting parents whereas same sex couples, according to the petition pay £6000 per IVF cycle and £1500 for an embryo transplant. This also means that it is often more financially viable to adopt rather than to receive IVF, which means that a child theoretically will be coming into a more financially stable home.
Secondly, the number of abortions in England and Wales in 2018 was 205,295. However, the pro-choice movement would sooner tell a woman to abort than to choose to let a same sex couple who want children, raise and support her child. Again, through the process of adoption, a same-sex couple would not be paying as much as they would be for IVF treatment.
Furthermore, adoption generally guarantees that a same sex couple will be able to have a child. IVF for women under 35 only works 32% of the time and only 25% of the time for women above that age. If women in same sex couples were granted access to the free attempts on the NHS, on average they would still end up paying for one attempt.
Biologically, the argument that the petition raises is flawed. The NHS states that for free attempts of IVF to be granted, a couple has to have been trying to conceive naturally by regular unprotected intercourse for two years as well as 12 cycles of artificial insemination. Of course, same-sex couples cannot naturally conceive, so this already means that they would not meet the criteria required to be granted access to free IVF attempts on the NHS. If they were granted free access without the criteria of natural conception being included, this would be unfair on the women who have been trying to naturally conceive. Furthermore, for artificial insemination, heterosexual couples do not have to use a donor (unless one of the parents in infertile)
Overall, it is not in the pursuit of equality that this petition has been launched. Equality, as Baroness Helena Kennedy once said, is not treating everybody exactly the same. It is weighing up the circumstances and finding the best possible solution that would be the best result for all parties involved. In the case of granting same sex couples the same access to IVF treatment as heterosexual couples, it is unfair because same sex couples cannot conceive, which gives them a time advantage over the heterosexual women who have genuinely been trying. Granting homosexual couples access to IVF leaves out children in care who need to be fostered or adopted, and IVF costs the NHS a considerable sum of money. It is in my opinion that same-sex couples should not be granted the same access to IVF as heterosexual couples as it would create a discrepancy in treatment between people of different sexual orientations.