The current criteria for the new free IVF treatment in Ireland gives the State the power to “determine” who has the right to have children, according to parents who have used IVF.
State-funded IVF was introduced today for the first time in Irish history, allowing eligible couples to access reproductive treatment for free.
The current criteria for free IVF allows mothers under 41 with a BMI between 18.5 and 30 and fathers under the age of 60 to access treatment.
Couples must also have “no living children from your current relationship” or at least one person has no children from a previous relationship, and they cannot have accessed more than one round of private IVF treatment in the past.
Same-sex couples, single people and couples who cannot provide their own egg and sperm are also not qualified for reproductive assistance.
While Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed State-funded IVF will be expanded to include more people, some parents are already frustrated by the “restrictive” criteria.
Harry told Lunchtime Live he and his wife spent €70,000 for IVF in order to have their two sons due to their older age and Harry's disability, so they wouldn’t be qualified to access the free treatment.
“I would fear that this [criteria] just tends to go into that territory where people who are on the edges of society through no fault of their own are now again penalised when it comes to having a child, which is a fundamental right for every person on the planet,” he said.
“The State stepping in to determine who can have [children] is dangerous territory... you’re forced down a certain route through no fault of your own by the State and the way life is.”
'That's a big decision'
Harry agreed the free IVF treatment is a “step in the right direction” - but he argued the State needs to acknowledge that children are “an extension of your life in ways and moves you forward”.
“So when the State is intervening and saying, ‘No, you don’t have the right to go forward’, that’s a big decision,” he said.
“It needs to broaden... the age thing needs to stop – many people are marrying later and having children later, again through no fault of their own.”
Weight and infertility
Jennifer has had three children through IVF, and she told the show the criteria around BMI is particularly concerning.
“I have a condition called PCOS, which is very common among women and contributes to higher weight and being very difficult to lose weight,” she said.
“When we did our treatments, I saw the need to lose a lot of weight and the only way I could do that was through unhealthy ways.
“[I was] more or less starving myself, so I’d question how healthy I was, and mentally it had a massive impact.”
Jennifer also said requiring couples to provide their own eggs is unkind.
“Infertility is a disease,” she said.
“I can’t think of any other disease in the country that’s funded to help where there’s such strict criteria.
“They don’t want their [success] statistics affected, I imagine, and with higher-risk people, people into their mid 40s and higher BMI, it would obviously affect their outcomes.”
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