Access criteria for Ireland's free IVF scheme will be expanded, Minister says

While the Minister said that it is his intention to expand access criteria, the free IVF scheme currently excludes same-sex couples.

Minister Stephen Donnelly, who said the free IVF scheme will be expanded, speaking to reporters in Dublin.
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Today, September 25, on the occasion of the launch of the new free IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) scheme, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that the access criteria will be expanded to include more people. The current criteria preclude same-sex couples from accessing the free treatments, with several LGBTQ+ advocacy groups calling on the government to rethink this decision and the Oireachtas to pass the appropriate legislation.

The new scheme is open from today, allowing those who meet the access criteria to avail of one publicly funded IVF cycle. Patients will be referred by their GPs to Regional Fertility Hubs to access the treatments. Moreover, the scheme will also cover three cycles of IUI (Intrauterine Insemination Treatment).

Access criteria currently exclude single persons, same-sex couples and other couples who require donor eggs or sperm. Many have criticised the strictness of these criteria, with advocacy groups such as LGBT Ireland and Irish Gay Dads urging the Irish government to reconsider, emphasising that LGBTQ+ couples who want to have children experience the same stresses, anxieties and worries as other members of society.

Commenting on the access criteria when the scheme was announced in July, Paula Fagan from LGBT Ireland said: “The decision to bar those who use a donor from the funding scheme means that all same-sex couples will be excluded. There is no justification for this.”



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As reported by The Journal, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has now said that it is his intention to expand the access criteria of the IVF scheme in the future. “For example, one of the groups that it has not yet been possible to provide the service for – and that we absolutely must, and will – is individuals and couples where it’s assisted human reproduction in terms of donor materials,” he said.

“That’s a group who feel that they have been left out,” the Minister continued. “They haven’t, this came because of very clear advice from the clinicians that we need to have the regulatory framework on the legislation in place.”

The legislation in question is the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, which would regulate the use of donor materials and which the government aims to get over the line by the end of the year. However, according to what Séamus Kearney Martone stated on behalf of Irish Gay Dads when the scheme was announced, “the Bill has been delayed time and again. Each deadline the Minister set has been missed”.

“It’s deeply unfair to keep families waiting indefinitely for this important legislation,” he added at the time. Moreover, even in case the legislation is passed by the end of the year, it could take months to put the regulations in place, meaning that LGBTQ+ couples could face further delays in being included in the publicly funded scheme.

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