Natalie Drew and Ashling Phillips, a lesbian couple who have two children by a sperm donor, decided to set up The Gay Family Web Fertility Centre designed to cater for gay people after their own experiences in trying to start a family. Drew said: 'One lady we spoke to was having trouble conceiving, but she was told that she wasn't eligible for treatment because she hadn't had sex with a man within the last ten years'.
Drew and Phillips said they had encountered problems when trying to conceive their two children, Gianna and Kai. Drew said she was made to feel alienated when staff addressed Phillips, who was carrying Kai, as the mother rather than including both of them.
'Most of the GPs will try to be progressive, but they will refer to the person carrying the child and not the partner, which makes them feel excluded', Drew said. She added: 'A lot of the criteria is outdated and hasn't moved with the times'. The pair said that currently there are inadequate resources for gay couples because most fertility centres focus on heterosexual couples.
The couple had originally started the service online, but after a surge in demand they decided to set up a centre with a nurse to carry out blood tests and a counsellor to give support until the birth.
The project has been criticised by Christian groups. Mike Judge of the Christian Institute said: 'Kids need a mum and a dad, a male and female role model. This is denying that'. He added: 'This clinic is more to do with the desires of adults rather than the best interests of children'.
A Home Office spokesperson said although in law the service cannot discriminate against somebody on the basis of their sexual orientation it may market itself as a same-sex fertility clinic. 'However, if a straight couple were to approach them for help, they would not be able to refuse to serve them', it stated.