The UK’s equality watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has announced it will begin a judicial review action against the National Health Service (NHS) England for not offering fertility treatments to transgender patients.
The commission would argue that not offering fertility treatments to patients restricts their options for reproduction, which is discriminatory against transgender patients.
However, the legal move against an already resource-stretched NHS could prove controversial, the Guardian reports.
More young people seeking treatment
This comes at a time which has seen a rapid increase in the number of teenagers in the UK who are seeking treatment for gender dysphoria on the NHS.
Last month, the EHRC had advised the NHS to offer fertility treatment to transgender patients before they undergo gender affirmation treatment, which normally makes patients infertile.
By storing eggs or sperm, this would give transgender patients the option of having biological children via surrogacy later in life.
However, an increasing number of young people are keen to proceed with treatment while they are teenagers, and may not have the resources to pay for the storage.
By not offering the fertility as a standard procedure, the commission argues, discriminates against transgender people and restricts their choices to bear biological children later in life.
The NHS has counter-argued that it is not a national institutional responsibility, but rather a choice that should be made by individual clinical commisioning groups (the bodies which buy services for patients).
The move by the EHRC may also not be a popular one among many people. A high-profile legal case is likely to prove controversial as it comes at a time when the NHS is dealing with budgetary set-backs and struggling to provide core services.
Increase in numbers
The case is expected to highlight the rapidly increasing numbers of people 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 compared to only 40 in 2009.
Minister for women and equalities, Penny Mordaunt, has launched an inquiry into this increase, examining the role of social media and education on transgender issues in schools.
In May, transgender rights activists wrote an open letter to Mordaunt, requesting she prioritize a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which would potentially give adults the right to change gender without a doctor’s approval.