Progress at last on publicly funded IVF but concerns about the criteria

25 July 2023
  • Essential that reproductive leave is also legislated for.

Labour Senator Marie Sherlock has welcomed the progress at last on publicly funded fertility treatment but said she had serious concerns about the criteria that will apply and reiterated her call for paid reproductive leave.

Senator Sherlock said:

“The confirmation today that publicly funded IVF treatment will finally be available for couples from September is very welcome and long overdue as it was first committed to in 2016, and funding for it was announced in last year’s budget.

“It is critical that in the long term IVF becomes a publicly provided service, and is not just outsourced to private clinics. For thousands of couples seeking to have a child this will provide vital financial relief from what is already a very stressful time. I am aware of many couples who have delayed making a decision for some time as they waited for the public scheme to open.

“What I am especially concerned about is the reported restrictive criteria that will apply. I look forward to seeing the detail of the recommendations made by the expert group as this is a very complex and sensitive medical area. One in six couples will experience fertility issues, and the costs run into thousands of euro, and the time it takes also has a workplace impact.

“Contrary to some reporting, those with unexplained infertility with qualify for the scheme. However, we are concerned that certain cut off to eligibility are being applied for budgetary as opposed to medical reasons. Our understanding that is the age restrictions will disappoint some couples. In the UK, we understand the NHS offers IVF to women under the age of 43 while reports today say the age for women applying in Ireland will be set at 41.

“Furthermore, the BMI criteria appears crude, particularly when we understand that certain conditions associated with infertility are often associated with a higher BMI. To exclude applicants at the first hurdle based on their weight as opposed to assessing the whole of their medical circumstances seems crude and discriminatory.

“The public provision now of IVF also highlights the need for paid reproductive leave. A huge concern of workers hoping to access treatment is the fact that right now in Ireland, there is no entitlement for time off work to attend appointments relating to fertility treatments like IVF, nor is there paid time off work when a women experiences an early miscarriage.

“Labour has sought to legislate for this and we will continue to push Government to urgently progress our bill. We need to provide leave to women when they need it most and ensure that our workplaces take account of our lived experiences as women. Our hopes and dreams for our family do not exist outside of the hours of 9 to 5. They are always with us. This needs to be acknowledged in how we approach helping people in the workplace when they need it most.

“Aside from the workplace protections that this bill would introduce, and the help it would give to couples undergoing very expensive fertility treatments like IVF, it would also represent a meaningful step towards opening conversations around reproductive health in Ireland and would help to encourage public awareness of reproductive health issues. With the flick of a pen, the Government can address the clear and obvious inequalities in our workplaces and provide early miscarriage and fertility treatment leave.”

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