Spain’s lesbians locked out of fertility treatments

The Spanish government on Tuesday approved a move which will prevent single women and lesbians in Spain from accessing publicly funded fertility treatments.

Spain's lesbians locked out of fertility treatments
Gay groups in Spain plan to protest new rules excluding lesbians from public access to treatments like IVF. Photo: Quinn Dombrowski

Only couples made up of a man and a woman with one sterile partner will be able to access assisted reproductive technologies via Spain's public hospitals after a decision by Spanish health ministry.

The move came out of a meeting on Tuesday where Spain's Health Ministry negotiated with the country's autonomous regions as to which health services should be publicly funded.

The inclusion of the new sterility clause for reproductive technologies was rejected by Andalusia, the Basque Country, the Canary Islands and Asturias, Spain's El Mundo newspaper reported on Thursday.

But this was not enough to block the change.

The new rules also impose an age cap on people accessing fertility treatments such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization through Spain's public health system.

Only women aged 40 or under and men aged 55 or less will eligible.

A total of three treatment cycles will be offered through the public system.

The move will see single women and lesbians having to pay an average of around €1,000 ($1,300) for artificial insemination in the private sector, Spain's El País newspaper reported on Wednesday.

For in vitro fertilization, that cost is around €7,500.

Spain's largest provider of such treatments, the Instituto Valenciano de Infertilidad performed 3,648 artificial insemination treatments in 2012, according to El País.

A total of 19 percent of those treatments involved single women.

Speaking about the move, Spain's health minister Ana Mato said, "Any woman who is having problems in terms of having a child, as assessed by a doctor will have access to publicly funded assisted reproduction".

She added she didn't think "the lack of a man was a medical problem".

Spain's peak body for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals FELGTB plans to appeal the new rules, the group announced on Tuesday.

Around 15 percent of heterosexual Spanish couples are thought to have fertility problems.

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Spain restores free IVF to singles, lesbians and now trans people

The Spanish government on Wednesday confirmed it will restore state-funded fertility treatment to singles, bisexual women and lesbians, also extending it to transgender persons capable of conceiving who can access IVF on the national health system.

Fertility treatment is now free for the majority of people in Spain. Photo: GENYA SAVILOV / AFP
Fertility treatment is now free for the majority of people in Spain. Photo: GENYA SAVILOV / AFP

The measure had long been demanded by LGBT rights groups and is part of the Socialist-led government’s drive for equality.

Fertility treatment is free in Spain, but in 2014, the conservative Popular Party government that was in power at the time, limited it to heterosexual women who have a partner, forcing others to pay for private treatment.

Since then, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment has only been free for those with fertility problems resulting from a medical condition, or to prevent the transmission of a serious disease or disorder.

It was not available to those who were unable to conceive without having fertility problems, such as single women or lesbians.

“The government has restored the right of single women, lesbians and bisexuals to access assisted reproduction techniques within the national health system and has extended it to transgender people with gestational capacity,” a ministry statement said.

Under the new ministerial order, which came into effect on Wednesday, the service will affect some 8,500 women, according to the health ministry.

“This is a milestone,” said Health Minister Carolina Darias on signing the order, indicating it would have “an important impact on these groups, guaranteeing access to assisted reproduction techniques under equal conditions”.

“Spain is a world leader in public health and in rights for women and the LGBTI community,” she added.

Despite the conservative government’s move to limit the service seven years ago, many of Spain’s 17 regions, which are responsible for their own healthcare policy, refused to enforce it.

Spain’s current government, which describes itself as feminist, has a record number of women serving in the cabinet.