Lesbian couple claim victory as NHS group changes same-sex IVF rules

Social media influencers Megan Bacon-Evans and Whitney Bacon-Evans say change ‘leaves us feeling very hopeful for the future of LGBTQ+ families’

Matt Mathers
Sunday 23 July 2023 14:11 BST
Whitney (right) and Megan Bacon-Evans
Whitney (right) and Megan Bacon-Evans (Whitney Bacon-Evans/Megan Bacon-Evans/@Whatwegandidnext/Instagram)

A married lesbian couple have claimed a “victory for equality” after their local health service group agreed to change its fertility treatment rules for same-sex couples, following a landmark legal case that sparked a national debate and a government U-turn.

Social media influencers Megan Bacon-Evans and Whitney Bacon-Evans said they had formally withdrawn their case from the High Court after NHS Frimley Integrated Care Board (ICB) agreed to give same-sex couples the same access to fertility treatment.

“Two and a half years after launching legal action, we are pleased to announce that our case has come to an end with a victory,” the couple wrote on Instagram. “This combined with the government’s commitment to removing the barriers to accessing IVF for same-sex couples in 2023 leaves us feeling very hopeful for the future of LGBTQ+ families.”

The couple, from Windsor, Berkshire, who are known on YouTube as Wegan, met online in 2008 and have a large social media following, with 116,000 fans on Instagram alone. They launched their fertility equality campaign in 2020 after learning that the rules around fertility treatment are different for gay versus heterosexual couples.

‘Wegan’ announced they are withdrawing their High Court legal challenge
‘Wegan’ announced they are withdrawing their High Court legal challenge (whatwegandidnext/Instagram)

Under NHS rules lesbian couples had to show they had paid for 12 rounds of private treatment to prove that they were unable to conceive before being eligible for IVF, while straight couples only had to verbally tell doctors they have been trying to conceive for two years.

Campaigners said the cost of proving infertility can be as high as £25,000 to 30,000 and branded the requirement a gay tax.

“We were shocked and devastated to discover the discrimination that lesbian couples, bisexual women and individuals with wombs face in starting their family,” the couple wrote in a post on their website in November 2021  before launching their legal battle.

Their campaign started a national conversation about access to fertility treatment and the couple’s case, which featured in news stories across the globe, and was discussed in the House of Lords.

Last year the couple gave evidence to the first evidence session of the government’s LGBT+ commission and in July ministers widened access to fertility treatments to same-sex couples and single women.

Frimley ICB, previously called Frimley CCG, is due to hold a public consultation on access to fertility treatment in November. According to minutes from a meeting in September last year, the group was considering abolishing the requirement for same-sex couples to pay for private treatment before accessing NHS help.

While no public announcement has yet been made the couple’s lawyer has been told that Frimley ICB intends to change its rules in line with its draft proposals. A spokesperson for Frimley ICB said the group was reviewing its position and would share further information as the process continues.

The Department for Health and Social Care said it hoped to implement the changes before the end of the year but that it was up to individual ICBs to make decisions on treatment.

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