The Malta Independent 19 November 2018, Monday

Updated: IVF amendments approved at second reading stage, with Opposition voting against

Rebecca Iversen Wednesday, 23 May 2018, 19:27 Last update: about 7 months ago

The controversial IVF amendments were yesterday approved at second reading stage, with the Opposition voting against. In all 36 MPs from the government side voted in favour and 29 of the opposition voted against. Both sides had one MP missing.

The amendments will now be debated at committee stage.

The amendments have led to heated debates about the ethical and moral considerations the bill poses. The IVF amendments proposed by Health Minister Chris Fearne, were based on changes in modern science and the aim to increase infertility for couples.

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The amendments on the Embryo Protection Act are to be a radical overhaul that will make in-vitro fertilisation accessible to same-sex couples.

The most prominent changes include the introduction of embryo freezing, sperm and egg donations,frozen embryo adoption and altruistic (non-commercial) surrogacy.

Fearne claimed that the IVF amendments are based on pro-life principles, as the new law will double the amount of embryos that survive.

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca had called for more time so that a constructive and holistic debate could be held. The Opposition had spoken out against the bill claiming the amendments spurred ethical and moral concerns.

PL MP Deborah Schembri had also expressed her disagreement with embryo freezing, embryo adoption and surrogacy.

Former Foreign Minister and Labour deputy leader George Vella, interviewed by The Malta Independent, had said that he would have definitely voted against the bill has he still been in parliament.

A public petition against the amendments had garnered over 8,000 signatures and thousands had protested against the new law in Valletta. A group of 100 academics from different University of Malta departments had also banded together to express concern about proposed amendments.

 

The reactions

Reacting this evening, the Labour Party said the bill gave new hope to people who suffered infertility.

Before the vote, PD MP Godfrey Farrugia said the democratic party would be voting against. While PD was in favour of IVF and all assistance available to address infertility, life should be respected.

These amendments, he said, did not respect life. When an embryo is frozen its life is placed in clear danger, he said.

In a press conference addressed shortly after the vote, Nationalist Party leader Adrian Delia repeatedly stressed that the PN is in favour of life from conception until “natural death”, which is why it voted against the amendments.

Delia said the law which regulates IVF treatment was implemented in 2012, called the Embryo Protection Act, which gives hope to couples who struggle with fertility.

He said that the act in its current form protect life, and the amendments proposed by the government does not. He took umbrage with the five days awarded to the PN from when it received the contents of the amendment to when it was expected to debate it in Parliament and vote.

Delia said the PN’s position is clear, and backed by the experts which penned a letter going against the amendments. Over 100 medical experts had signed the letter.

In a statement issued by the government, Health Minister Chris Fearne said that he will be meeting with various NGOs and interest groups who have expressed their opinions on the amendments in order to take that feedback to the committee stage of the legislative process. The committee stage is when parliamentarians iron out the wording of the draft law.

 

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