Equality watchdog drops lawsuit against NHS over trans fertility rights

Equality watchdog drops lawsuit against NHS over trans fertility rights
Trans rights advocates march at Glasgow Pride, 14 July 2018 equality

The UK’s equality watchdog has dropped a legal case against the National Health Service (NHS) for failing to provide fertility treatment to trans patients.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had announced legal action against the NHS in September last year.

The commission had argued that not offering fertility treatments to patients restricts their options for reproduction discriminated against transgender patients.

However, the EHRC agreed to drop the lawsuit following further discussions with the NHS, The Telegraph reports.

A spokesperson for the NHS said it was ‘pleased’ that the EHRC had dropped its claims, saying that the lawsuit was ‘without merit’.

‘Very disappointing’

The EHRC had initially argued that by not offering fertility treatment to trans patients who were undergoing gender affirmation treatment, the NHS was infringing on their rights to conceive at a later date.

Undergoing gender affirmation treatment usually makes trans patients infertile.

By storing eggs or sperm, this would give transgender patients the option of having biological children via surrogacy later in life.

The commission had said that many trans patients, particularly in among teenagers undergoing treatment for gender dysphoria, may not have the resources to pay for egg or sperm storage.

It is already standard for patients with conditions, such as cancer, which could make them infertile to be offered such fertility treatment.

‘Our laws and our values protect those who seek treatment for gender dysphoria,’ Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the EHRC, said when the commission was still exploring legal options.

‘This means that where appropriate, treatment should be made available in order to ensure that access to health services is free of discrimination.

‘A choice between treatment for gender dysphoria and the chance to start a family is not a real choice.’

Dr Jane Hamlin, President of trans support group The Beaumont Society, said it was ‘very disappointing’ that the EHRC’s case was being dropped.

‘Trans people do not ask for special treatment – merely to enjoy the same rights as everyone else,’ Dr Hamlin said.

‘Sadly, we have become accustomed to being treated as second-class citizens when we just want to experience family life like our friends and relatives.’

Review of fertility laws

The discussion over trans patients’ rights comes amid calls for a review of fertility laws by the UK’s most senior family court judge.

Recently a trans man was able to access a sperm donor 10 days after legally completing his gender transition.

After becoming pregnant, the trans man took his case to the high court in order to be listed as ‘father’ on his child’s birth certificate.

After hearing the case, Sir Andrew McFarlane, the president of the Family Division of the High Court, requested that the Health Secretary review the rights of trans men to access fertility treatment.

It also comes at a time when a record number of teenagers in the UK are seeking treatment for gender dysphoria.

In under ten years, the number of girls seeking treatment has seen a 4,400% increase, with 1,806 seeking treatment in 2017. This is compared to only 40 girls seeking treatment in 2009.

Last year, Penny Mordaunt, the minister for women and equalities, launched an inquiry into the role of social media and education on transgender issues in schools.

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Author: Calum Stuart

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