View from Westminster: Southwark IVF scandal has ‘no place in modern Britain’

Katherine Johnston (04 September, 2019) Columnists

Loving, solid families comprise single parent families, married heterosexual parents and same-sex couples. This is one of the great freedoms of our society in the UK.

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Not being able to have the baby you long for causes untold misery and suffering. IVF is a medical advance which has ended this misery for thousands, writes Camberwell & Peckham MP Harriet Harman…

So I was appalled that NHS South East London has adopted a policy to deny single women IVF treatment. To deny this treatment to single women is not only cruel, it’s discriminatory.

NHS South East London’s guidelines lay down that women won’t get fertility treatment unless they are in in a “stable relationship” claiming that single mothers “place a greater burden on society in general”.

But there is no evidence that children brought up by unmarried mothers do worse than those brought up by those who are married.

If the NHS Commissioners sat in a classroom in Southwark they would not be able to tell which child lives with one parent and which lives with two.

With 1 in 3 marriages ending in divorce and many lone parents subsequently marrying, it is wrong to seek to justify denying IVF to those who are single at the time they seek treatment.

This will only deepen the divide between those who can afford to pay for IVF and those who can’t.

Unmarried women who can pay will still be able to get IVF but those who work hard but are on lower incomes will not.

And if that wasn’t enough, what a terrible message this policy sends to all lone mothers and to all the children of lone mothers that there is something wrong with them.

It is a particular affront for NHS South East London to have done this in view of the fact that 10 per cent of children in Southwark are being brought up by lone parents.

This is a slap in the face to all of them and their children.

I thought we had long ago recognised that families come in all shapes and sizes and that there’s no one way to have your family in Britain in 2019.

Loving, solid families comprise single parent families, married heterosexual parents and same-sex couples. This is one of the great freedoms of our society in the UK.

We cannot allow government cuts to the NHS to mean we are rationing services on a discriminatory basis.

It is the Government’s job to promote equality, providing all with the same opportunities and equal access to healthcare to ensure the best chances in life.

I’ve challenged the Secretary of State for Health Matthew Hancock to step in and make it clear that this sort of prejudice has no place in society as a whole, let alone in our NHS.

I’ve asked how on earth this could have happened. Who approved it? On what evidence? Why was there no consultation?

This is secret prejudice cooked up behind closed doors. And I’ve written to our local Clinical Commissioning Group, Southwark CCG, calling on them to ignore of this ban.

This has no place in modern Britain and now it’s been exposed I’m hopeful this horrid policy will be dropped.

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