Government to pay for couples to have IVF treatment

Minister for Health will also commit to outlawing commercial surrogacy

The Government will today commit to funding IVF treatment for couples unable to conceive from 2019.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to bring a memo to Cabinet this morning outlining proposed regulatory measures for the area of assisted human reproduction.

It is understood Mr Harris will commit to outlawing commercial surrogacy and the payment for egg, sperm or embryo donors.

The memo will provide for an ethical framework with clear rules for the welfare of the child, woman and informed consent.

Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Mr Harris said that by the end of the year he wants to clarify for families what financial assistance would be available for IVF from 2019.

“I made it very clear that I want to put in place supports to help subsidise the cost of IVF for families,” Mr Harris said.

“One in six of us could experience infertility challenges at any time and I would like to by the end of the year be in a position to provide clarity to families in terms of what supports we may be able to provide from 2019.”

Mr Harris said the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill will “regulate this whole area”.

“I hope to send it to the Oireachtas Committee subject to Cabinet approval for pre-legislative scrutiny and get it passed into law in 2018 with the idea of having public subsidies for IVF for 2019,” he said.

Mr Harris said it is very important “that we have done in this country what a lot of other countries have done in terms of regulating the area and trying to provide a system of financial assistance”.

A spokeswoman for the Minister said: “At present, in Ireland there is little regulation in this area of Assisted Human Reproduction (IVF etc). It is a complex and expensive area and Ireland remains one of the only countries in Europe that has not introduced legislation.

“Minister Harris will ask cabinet on Tuesday to approve the drafting of a bill to enable people in need of AHR to access these services and to protect people who do access these services.”

The Minister will also commit to detailing a policy direction for State funding for fertility treatment for couples who cannot afford treatment by the end of the year.

This will entail outlining the criteria by which a person or a couple can receive financial assistance.

It is understood Mr Harris will examine the situation in Britain for guidance and is minded to ensure income will not be a barrier in accessing State funding.

Mr Harris is also eager to ensure the scheme is not limited to persons with a medical card.

It is estimated one in six Irish couples struggle with their fertility but there is no public system to allow for IVF treatment.