LGBTQ+ families "disappointed" over exclusion from Ireland's free IVF scheme

Advocacy groups are calling on the government to rethink its decision and make public funding for IVF available to LGBTQ+ families.

This article is about LGBTQ+ families being excluded from IVF funding. In the photo, two dads holding their daughter's hands.
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LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and families have expressed disappointment in regard to the Irish government’s decision to exclude same-sex couples from the publicly funded IVF scheme.

The new scheme opened on September 25, allowing those who meet the access criteria to avail of one publicly funded IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) cycle and up to three cycles of IUI (Intrauterine Insemination Treatment). Funding is available in cases where there is a known clinical cause of infertility, with limits based on age, BMI (Body Mass Index) and number of children the couple already has.

However, access criteria currently exclude single persons, same-sex couples and other couples who require donor eggs or sperm. Advocacy groups such as Equality for Children, Irish Gay Dads and LGBT Ireland have voiced their disappointment at the government’s decision to exclude LGBTQ+ families from the IVF scheme, calling for appropriate legislation to be passed swiftly.

“The new IVF/IUI funding is very disappointing for many LGBT families,” said Pádraig Rice from LGBT Ireland. “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.”

Ranae von Meding spoke on behalf of Equality for Children, saying: “There is a huge cost associated with growing your family through IVF/IUI. Families are left with bills in the tens of thousands in some cases and others simply cannot begin the process at all.

“These new financial supports are really welcome, but they should be open to everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or relationship status. The exclusion of everyone who uses donor gametes is deeply unfair,” von Meding added.



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Irish Gay Dads stressed that the government’s “decision reiterates the need for the Oireachtas to progress and pass the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill”. Indeed, on the occasion of the launch of the new free IVF scheme, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that the decision to exclude people who need donor materials “came because of very clear advice from the clinicians that we need to have the regulatory framework on the legislation in place.”

However, as Séamus Kearney Martone from Irish Gay Dads told GCN, ​​”The LGBTQ+ community has been excluded from the IVF Funding piece on the proviso that the Health Assisted Human Reproduction draft legislation was imminent.

“The IVF funding was announced on July 25th 2023, and enacted this week, yet we have not heard anything further in the intervening two months about when the draft legislation will be published,” he further explained.

He added, “The lack of clarity on timelines for the community is extremely disappointing, given the promises time and again from the Department of Health, and more specifically, Minister Donnelly, that the legislation would be drafted and enacted as a matter of urgency.”

CEO of Equality for Children Ranae von Meding also weighted down on this, saying: “We already have legislation in place to govern the use of donor gametes and register donor-conceived children in the state, so I don’t buy into the excuse that we needed to have the AHR Bill published before we could fund IVF cycles which include donor gametes. It seems like a cop-out to me.

“Access to fertility services should not and cannot be exclusive to any one set of people. It needs to be equitable across the board for those from all subsections of our widely diverse Irish society,” von Meding continued. “This move from Min. Donnelly and the Department of Health further illustrates how they see our community… as an afterthought.”

In addition to advocacy groups, other LGBTQ+ families have also expressed their disappointment at being excluded. Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Sonia Kelly, who lives in Ballina (Co. Tipperary) with her wife Tara, said that the realisation that LGBTQ+ families would be excluded from the IVF scheme “really, really hurt”.

“I assumed we’d have to pay for the donor sperm, but I wasn’t expecting to be excluded entirely,” she said. “We feel very supported by the local community. We’d love to raise a family here. We’re doing IUI because we can’t afford IVF. But the funding isn’t means-tested, so people on high incomes can access it.”

Sonia said that she is aware that it’s a “race against the clock. It weighs on you very heavily. All you can do is keep going, keep trying. It would break our hearts not to have a family because we couldn’t afford it”.

Another woman from Cork, Shannon Murphy-Howard, expressed similar sentiments, saying: “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.”

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