The Lesbian Couple Fighting for Fair Access to Fertility Treatment

Influencers Whitney and Megan Bacon-Evans are launching legal action against the NHS after they faced tens of thousands of pounds in costs to “prove” their infertility.
Megan and Whitney Bacon-Evans.
Megan (left) and Whitney Bacon-Evans (right). Photo courtesy of Megan and Whitney. 

Whitney and Megan Bacon-Evans always knew they wanted kids. After meeting in 2008 in the UK, the couple did four years of long-distance, until, finally, they were able to live together in the same country in 2012. They got married, moved in together, picked names for their future children (Olivia and Oscar) and lived the life of a normal couple – sort of.

Before the term “influencer” was even around, the pair began documenting their relationship online. They felt it was important to be visible as a lesbian couple, so launched a blog and then a presence on various social media channels. Now, with over 220,000 followers across social media, they share videos of their lives together – the pair on their wedding day, for example, or a day in the life during COVID. The couple, who call themselves “Wegan,” were able to turn their online presence into a career, eventually launching a dating site for lesbian women as well as a digital consultancy.

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However, in 2020, the couple faced a barrier in their journey to becoming a family. After finding out they were unable to use an international sperm donor for home insemination, they discovered that in order to access IVF on the NHS, they would need to spend thousands of pounds in fertility treatments to “prove” medical infertility. For heterosexual couples, all that is required is two years of trying for a baby. 

Now, with support from a law firm and LGBTQ charity Stonewall, they’re launching legal action against the NHS, hoping to change the rules around accessing contraceptive support if you’re not a woman in a heterosexual relationship. 

VICE World News spoke to the couple about their role as LGBTQ influencers and their fight for IVF equality. 

VICE World News: Hi Megan and Whitney. When did you first know you wanted to have kids together?
Whitney
: Megan and I have been together 13 years, and it was literally only a year or two into the relationship we knew we definitely wanted to spend our lives together and have children. So much so that we even picked out the names of our kids over a decade ago, and the names are still the ones we're gonna name them now. 

Megan: We've always just imagined that we will have our little family one day. You know, thinking about Christmases and meals around the table. It's just something that we've always thought about. Whitney used to live in Hawaii. So we're really excited to go back and take our children to Hawaii with them.

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When did your fertility treatment journey begin?
Megan:
We started to embark on a journey at the beginning of 2020. And, you know, as a same-sex female couple, we didn't actually know what this journey would look like or where to even start. There's hardly any information out there really, or representation in the media. So we were really kind of just starting out in the dark and discovering as we went. 

First thing is that we decided that we probably would want to do home insemination. It was not long after that that our followers were telling us that we actually can't do home insemination and that the rules around this were changed in 2005. We were shocked. Then we looked into going down the clinic route. Along the way, we found out that it was likely that as a same-sex couple, our local CCG [Clinical Commissioning Group] would require us to do say six rounds of IUI [intrauterine insemination].

We knew from the start that the requirements for a heterosexual couple to receive any help from the NHS was two years of unprotected sex and that they didn't need to have any evidence of that, but also there was no financial cost for that. When we start to find out that actually, for us as a same-sex couple, we would be required to actually self-fund six rounds of IUI before we got to the same level. We were like, ‘Well, surely that can't be right? That’s discrimination.’”

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What actually transpired was that our CCG requires us to self-fund 12 rounds of artificial insemination, which if you add it all up, including treatment and sperm, we estimate it cost around £50,000. Which is just a huge financial barrier. 

Why are you launching legal action against the NHS?
Megan
: This isn't just about us. It's about what [the laws are] doing to the whole LGBTQ community. It's just the fact that there's a barrier being placed on us. The term gay tax has been going around a lot. That's what we're fighting for, really: equal access to fertility treatments.

We know a lot of lesbian couples are not willing to put themselves out there. We are very unique in the fact we're already online and public as an online lesbian couple, but a lot of people are scared to come out or, you know, they might only be out to a few friends and family, they're not willing to come out to the whole of the world. We're in a unique position, and also the fact that we ultimately fight for equality and against discrimination. We put ourselves online over a decade ago to try and provide visibility and representation for our community. It’s almost an extension of that.

Do you think being influencers will help with your fight?
Whitney
: I definitely think having our community and following definitely helps because we saw just how much this affects them. We instantly had such support, which was wonderful, because we know that if this does go positively, it can affect tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people that will come after us.

Megan: Within the law, we’re seen as wife and wife, and we just assumed that would have been extended to seeing us as a family unit. [Our online following] is the reason why we got into this is because of the messages we were receiving. We realised the impact this was having on people – they've either got into loads of debt, or they've spent a ridiculous amount of money and then they still haven't reached the point where the NHS will help them. 

A lot of influencers are wary of speaking out on controversial issues like this. Do you think it’s important to use your platform?
Megan
: Yeah, definitely, I think people should stand up for what they believe in. We put ourselves online, starting with a blog, just to put our faces out there trying to help other women and girls come to terms with their sexuality and accept and embrace who they are. That's what we have done, which is amazing. It just so happened that we managed to turn it into a career.

Are you feeling optimistic about the legal process?
Whitney
: I'm feeling optimistic. I think because of the general overview from people who are actually going through it and all the struggles, it's actually become apparent online that there is a real need for this and I think there's a lot of pressure on [the NHS] as well.

Megan: Obviously, there's no guarantee as to what the results of the [legal] review will be. But we're hopeful in that instance, as well, that progress is happening.