N.S. drops 'discriminatory' charge for same-sex couples, single people seeking fertility help

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Dr. Heather Cockwell is a physician at Halifax's Atlantic Assisted Reproductive Therapies.  (CBC - image credit)
Dr. Heather Cockwell is a physician at Halifax's Atlantic Assisted Reproductive Therapies. (CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia has changed how it charges people seeking fertility treatment.

Historically, the province paid for the initial consultation, but only for heterosexual couples. That left single people and same-sex couples facing a charge of several hundred dollars just to get started. Now it's free for everyone.

"Charging that fee to a same-sex couple and not charging that fee to a heterosexual couple was very discriminatory and not inclusive or supportive of family building in 2022," said Carolynn Dubé, executive director of Fertility Matters Canada.

Dropping that barrier would mean one less obstacle for single people and same-sex couples, she said.

'Over the moon'

Dr. Heather Cockwell works with people seeking fertility help at Halifax's Atlantic Assisted Reproductive Therapies. She lobbied the government for the change, with the help of Doctors Nova Scotia.

"Oh, I am over-the-moon happy. It's been a long fight," she said, adding the discrepancy had left members of the LGBTQ community feeling discriminated against and undervalued.

"I think it makes sense to extend this coverage to them so that everybody is on equal footing."

Cockwell said that change, plus a new tax rebate of up to $8,000 for people using IVF or surrogacies, have been major improvements for the province.

"We're grateful for what we have. This is definitely a big step forward compared to what we had before, which was nothing," she said.

Call for a national strategy

Fertility advocates say they'd now like to see a federal strategy to improve access for all Canadians.

Dubé and Cockwell noted the tax rebate still means people need to come up with thousands of dollars to pay for the treatment, and wait to get a 40 per cent rebate the next year.

"Our hope is that the federal government will come out with a fertility strategy and work with the provincial government to ensure more equitable access to care so that patients in Newfoundland no longer have to leave the province in order to access IVF, patients in P.E.I. won't have to leave their province in order to access IVF," Dubé said.

Courtesy @allieandsam
Courtesy @allieandsam

Alexandra Conway and her wife, Sam, made that initial consultation visit and paid the fee. They later learned they were charged simply because they were both women.

"I was really shocked, actually. It was the first time in Nova Scotia that we'd really encountered anything like that," she said Friday.

"Because otherwise we find it a really great place to live — really welcoming and equal. So I was very disappointed to hear that at the start and I'm very excited to hear that it has been changed."

The couple is celebrating another change: they're now pregnant with twins.

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