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Group threatens legal action against UK's NHS if it doesn't provide transgender fertility treatments

Image source: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The Equality and Human Rights Commission in the United Kingdom has threatened legal action against the National Health Service if it doesn't allow transgender patients access to fertility treatments, the Independent reported.

The EHRC, a nondepartmental public organization for human rights, issued a formal notice to the NHS calling on it to change its "outdated policies" and make fertility services available without discrimination against those with gender dysphoria.

“A choice between treatment for gender dysphoria and the chance to start a family is not a real choice," EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath told the Independent. "We have asked NHS England to reflect on the true breadth of their statutory mandate and the impact on the transgender community of these outdated policies.”

Currently, independent clinical commissioning groups determine which services are needed for a specific community, then it purchases those services on behalf of the population. It is responsible for the health outcomes of the entire locality and accountable to the NHS, according to the Independent.

These groups decide whether or not to provide the “gamete extraction and storage” to patients, the paper said. Most of the time, transgender patients are not among those selected to receive fertility services.

EHRC believes fertility services should be standard procedure for transgender patients who could be forced to choose between medical treatment for gender dysphoria or being able to have biological children.

What does the NHS say?

The NHS said EHRC has “misplaced their fire" and claimed it's the government's policies that restrict access to fertility services for transgender patients.

“Decisions on which services are commissioned by NHS England are taken by ministers based on advice from an independently-chaired panel of health experts and patient representatives, using a process set out in primary legislation," an NHS spokesman told the Independent.

England recently faced cuts and implemented a “postcode lottery,” which puts further limits on fertility treatment availability. The Department of Health declined the Independent's request for comment.

What do trans rights groups say?

Trans rights activists applauded the EHRC for its move to support the transgender community.

Stonewall, an LGBT support organization, said it welcomes the challenge for gender dysphoria fertility rights.

“It’s vital that trans people have fair and equal access to fertility treatment, and for many that should include the option of storing of eggs or sperm before medical transition,” said Paul Twocock, the director of campaigns, policy, and research at Stonewall.

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