FIFA referee fights for equal IVF funding for same-sex couples in England

Stacey and Danielle are fighting for IVF equality in England. (Change.org)

A FIFA referee has launched a fight for equal IVF funding for same-sex couples in England: “We realised how unfair and unjust the system was.”

FIFA referee and teacher Stacey Pearson and her partner Danielle are determined raise awareness of unequal access to fertility treatment, and to take the issue to parliament.

Across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, people who need IVF to grow their families have equal access to NHS funding, whether they are in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship.

However in England, same-sex couples are forced to go through several rounds of expensive intrauterine insemination (IUI), which can cost thousands per cycle, before they are considered for NHS help. To make matters more confusing, this requirement varies across England, leaving queer families in a “postcode lottery”.

Stacey and Danielle have one child together, three-year-old Willow, and are expecting their second.

Stacey told BristolLive: “Back in 2018, we had Willow because we were successful with our first round of IVF that we paid for ourselves.

“Danielle donated half her eggs which was how we had the treatment reduced to just paying for the sperm and drugs.

“Then in 2019 we did another round and had one of the embryos transferred to [Danielle] which didn’t work. Then in March 2020, we had another full cycle of IVF where we had an entirely new sperm donor that ended in a miscarriage.

“It wasn’t until the end of the year, in December, that Danielle felt ready to try again so we had another embryo transferred which ended up another miscarriage.”

Although Stacey is now finally pregnant, their ordeal in conceiving their second child highlighted the discrimination they were up against.

The couple have, to date, spent a total of £25,000, putting them in debt.

Stacey continued: “We started working out how much money we spent and we tried to speak to the NHS initially to which we were almost laughed at.

“It wasn’t until we were doing our own research that we realised you needed six failed attempts of IVF or 12 IUIs, depending on your clinical commissioning group in your local area, that’s when you get the help.

“We realised how unfair and unjust the system was.”

The couple decided to start a blog to raise awareness of the system, and to also launch a petition to bring to issue to parliament.

On the Change.org petition, which has been signed by more than 50,000 people, Stacey wrote: “I am not starting this petition to make a change for us, we are lucky that we have one amazing little girl.

“But I am hoping that we can change things for hundreds of couples going through this process in the future. We deserve to have the same rights as other females, regardless of our sexuality. ”

The couple have also created a template letter for supporters to send to their MPs, but said that “everyone had basically received the same response”.

They were told that the government was planning to review the process of IVF funding, promised by then-health secretary Matt Hancock in 2019, but that this had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s 2022 and at the moment, there has been no announcement of any review,” said Stacey.

“We’ve given them plenty of time. We also had Conservative MPs just sending the guidelines to us – and which we already knew, obviously. That’s why we’re doing this in the first place.”

Stacey and Danielle’s petition comes as social media influencers Megan Bacon-Evans, 34, and her wife Whitney, 33, launched a landmark legal case against the NHS over IVF inequality.

In November, the couple, known to their social media followers as Wegan, filed a judicial review accusing their clinical commissioning group in Frimley, a town in Surrey, of slapping them with a “gay tax”.

If approved, the case could be heard this year in the high court’s administrative division.