NHS bosses in Glasgow have agreed to help a lesbian couple to have a child after the women threatened legal action.
The two women, Caroline Harris and Julie McMullan, claimed they had been discriminated against after being told that their local board only provided IVF services to couples who were struggling to conceive a child naturally.
Their case was to be funded with £60,000 of taxpayers’ money provided by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
There is no law preventing lesbians from having IVF treatment, and since the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was passed last year there has been no need for doctors to consider a child’s need for a father when referring couples for IVF.
However, the guidelines of the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Health Board stated that IVF should only be given in the case of a medical problem or a “failure to conceive after two years during which there has been sexual intercourse and no use of contraception”.
The board has 460 couples on its waiting list for IVF, which costs around £3,000 per treatment, with an average waiting time of 95 weeks.
Neither of the women was infertile, but after private fertility treatment failed to lead to a pregnancy they applied for NHS treatment.
After being refused, they said that the health board’s IVF rules only provided for heterosexual couples, and threatened legal action under discrimination laws.
The couple claimed up to £20,000 in damages from the NHS board, saying they had suffered “a substantial degree of distress and anxiety” as well as being put to the expense of paying for private treatment.
The board initially refuted claims that the IVF rules were discriminating against same-sex couples, arguing that their criteria were “social and clinical”.
However, it has now backed down and agreed to provide the two women with IVF treatment.