Laura Hineson and Rachel Morgan had been trying to have a baby for several years via artificial insemination.
Due to unexplained infertility, Laura, 29, and Rachel Morgan, 26, were told they would have to undergo a total of six rounds of intrauterine insemination - at a cost of about £6,000 - before being able to get funded IVF treatment.
Under Barnsley NHS Clinical Commissioning Group’s policy - the organisation which commissions the town’s health services - a heterosexual couple with similarly unexplained infertility do not need to undergo clinical intrauterine insemination before being granted access to IVF treatment.
The couple instructed a legal team to pursue action against the CCG on the grounds of unlawful discrimination and won their fight for IVF.
Laura and Rachel, who live on the outskirts of Barnsley, said: “For us, this is about fighting for LGBT equality. We should have equal access to IVF treatment and a family, irrespective of the gender of the person we fall in love with.”
Laura, who is originally from Elsecar, and Rachel, from Monk Bretton, attempted to conceive using artificial insemination at home between November 2014 and January 2016. When this proved unsuccessful they were referred to Sheffield Fertility Centre in May 2016.
They underwent three self-funded cycles of intrauterine insemination treatments at the fertility centre. This was unsuccessful so they made a request, via their consultant, to Barnsley CCG to fund the IVF treatment.
This was rejected and the couple were told they would have to undergo a further three cycles of self-funded insemination before being eligible for funding for IVF.
In their legal case the couple, represented by law firm Leigh Day, claimed the policy amounted to unlawful direct discrimination on the grounds of their sexuality.
The policy stated that heterosexual couples would be offered IVF treatment if they had been unsuccessful after trying to conceive for two years, and providing they met further eligibility criteria.
For same sex couples, any attempts at artificial insemination at home were ignored and the policy required intrauterine insemination to be attempted before access to IVF could be granted.
The couple’s legal team argued that this showed a clear inequality.
A pre-action protocol letter was sent to Barnsley health bosses on behalf of the couple to set out their intention to seek a judicial review of the CCG’s decision to deny them access to IVF if they did not agree to change their policy and revise their process for assessing eligibility for individual funding requests.
In response to the letter, Barnsley CCG conducted a review of the couple’s funding request and in doing so, recognised that the CCG had relied too heavily upon the policy rather than looking at the specific circumstances of Rachel and Laura’s case.
Rosa Curling, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said: “It was clear to us that Laura and Rachel had faced direct discrimination due to their sexuality. We are pleased that the CCG finally recognised this and agreed to review their policy so that other same-sex couples will not face an unfair disadvantage over heterosexual couples in the same situation.”
The Chronicle understands the infertility policy is now under review.
A Barnsley CCG spokeswoman said: ”Like most CCGs, Barnsley adopts common policies across a wider geographical area, in this case Yorkshire and the Humber, and where there is a view that there is clinical exceptionality, this is determined by the process of individual funding requests.
“After looking into the specifics of Laura and Rachel’s case, the CCG has agreed IVF funding for the couple.
“We wish them well and hope the treatment is successful.”