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TUV questions why public paying for IVF treatment for same sex couples

23 April 2012

TUV Leader Jim Allister has questioned why in Northern Ireland the Health Minister permits access by same sex couples to publicly funded IVF treatment.


 “Childlessness can be a great source of anxiety and distress for many couples. Hence, the great help which publicly funded IVF treatment has brought to many. But, I do have to question why public funds are spent on affording this service to same sex couples, who by the very nature of their lifestyle choice have determined they are not interested in natural procreation. Yet, the public are expected to pay for expensive IVF treatment to facilitate reproduction for same sex couples.


 “In my view publicly funded fertility services should not be available to lesbian couples.


 “When I recently pressed the Health Minister, Edwin Poots, on this issue I found his answer disappointing. While he said he will give ‘consideration’ to reviewing the access criteria for fertility services when NICE publishes updated guidance in July 2012, there is no commitment to act, which falls short of what I expected from this minister and his party.


 “Publicly funded fertility services is supposed to be available to couples who have a medical cause for infertility. Choosing a same sex lifestyle is hardly a ‘medical cause for infertility’!


 “I was also surprised to discover that approximately 1000 embryos per year are being discarded in Northern Ireland within the IVF programme.


As I identified in the recent Assembly debate, there are troubling ethical issues flowing from IVF. Of most significance is the destruction of unused embyros. A human embyro is, biologically, a living human being at the earliest stage of its development, Of course, it is dependent on the mother to nurture it and give it life, but, genetically, it is a distinct organism, different from both the egg and the sperm from which it grew. It does, in effect, need nothing more than the nourishment of the mother to grow into a recognisable human being. Thus, the destruction of a thousand embyros a year in Northern ireland is a troubling issue.



Below are the relevant Assembly Questions & Answers:



To ask the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety whether he intends to review the availability of publicly funded IVF treatment for lesbian couples.


Publicly funded fertility services are, and always have been, available to couples, including same sex couples, who have a medical cause for infertility. Those with a diagnosed cause of infertility can access the services immediately; those with an unexplained cause must have been actively trying to conceive for a period of three years.

I will give consideration to reviewing the access criteria for fertility services when NICE publishes revised guidance in July 2012.

Information on the number of same sex couples who have received publicly funded IVF treatment in Northern Ireland is not available.



To ask the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety how many human embryos have been destroyed in each year since the introduction of publicly funded IVF treatment.




It should be noted that the most common reasons that embryos are allowed to perish include that embryos are of poor quality and not suitable for transfer to the patient or cryopreservation, the end of the legal consent period for embryo storage has been reached or the couple withdraw consent to continued storage.

The figures for the numbers of embryos that have been discarded in the course of publicly funded treatment in Northern Ireland are given below (only available from 2006) –

Year of treatment

Number of embryos discarded















*Figures given for 2011 and 2012 are provisional.


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NI politics