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Britain’s National Health Service Faces Threats Over Transgender Fertility Coverage

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Grace Carr Reporter

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is calling on Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to update its policy regarding fertility service coverage, alleging that the current policy discriminates against transgender people.

The EHRC wrote a pre-action letter to the NHS Friday, pressuring Britain’s health care system to change its “outdated” fertility policies, The Independent reported Sunday. The letter urges NHS to change its policies to cover the cost of egg-freezing procedures for transgenders, many of whom become infertile as a result of their hormone treatments.

“Treatment should be made available in order to ensure that access to health services is free of discrimination,” EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said, according to The Independent. “A choice between treatment for gender dysphoria and the chance to start a family is not a real choice,” she added.

The push for Britain’s health care system to foot the cost of fertility services comes after the British Fertility Society published guidelines in January calling on Britain’s Department of Health to offer free egg freezing to transgenders so that they can have families. The non-binding guidelines insist that the National Health Service (NHS) has a duty to offer free fertility treatments to transgenders because they have a right to become parents, according to the Telegraph. (RELATED: Guidelines Ask British Gov’t To Pay For Transgenders To Freeze Their Eggs Before Transition)

Other medical professionals posit that the NHS should only pay for essential health care. “The cash-strapped NHS should be concentrating on offering good basic health care to women or helping them beat their cancer, and not get side-tracked with these kinds of novelties,” CORE leader, Josephine Quintavalle, said in January. CORE is an organization that seeks to promote the ethical treatment of embryos, according to its website.

The transgender and lgbt communities applauded EHRC’s objection to Britain’s fertility coverage. “We welcome this challenge from the EHRC,” said Paul Twocock, Stonewall’s director of campaigns, policy and research. “We know the government are committed to improving health and social care provision for all LGBT people and addressing barriers to fertility support would be a positive step forward in this process,” he added.

Stonewall is an “LGBT equality charity,” according to the group’s Twitter handle.

“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 said in response to the EHRC’s call for action, The Independent reported.

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