Who will protect the embryo?

By Marisa Gatt, Mariella Catania, Christine Rossi, Martha Fitz

We, a group of mothers, are writing to appeal to those involved in the decisions to be taken after the consultation process on the amendments to the Embryo Protection Act, to keep the focus of all the amendments to be in the best interest of the embryo. 

Intentionally depriving a child of either his biological mother or biological father is inhumane to say the least. As we grow up we get to understand ourselves also in relationship to our mothers and fathers, both from a physical and psychological level. Thus, egg and sperm donation by a donor can never be the best for the child. And this is a case whereby it is adults who are deciding to create a situation themselves – no excuse in saying that it’s the best of two evils. Let’s be sensitive and listen to or read about the experiences of young people born in such conditions relating their frustrations. 

As one youth put it: “On father’s day... I asked myself the never ending question of “why me? why is it that I don’t get to know my father?” I think one of the worst parts was that my mother’s father died several years ago so she told me that she made plans for us to go to lunch with her friend, whose father also died, and that we could have lunch together because we all “don’t have fathers.” All I could think was “my father is not dead, you decided I would not have a father, so if you’re comparing my father to your dead father you basically killed my father.” I should admit I hold some internal resentment against my mother.” (Source: http://anonymousus.org/happy-fathers-day/)

With regard to the prospect of the legalisation of surrogacy which lies on the horizon, we wish to point out that this can by no means be equated to charity or a favour that one does for someone who can’t have a child. Surrogacy is an experience of forced detachment between mother and baby at a time where the mother-child bonding is meant to start. Even when mothers are detached from their babies due to stress or mental health issues, one can see many repercussions on the children, let alone when this is intentional. Many mothers are already being exploited in many parts of the world, forced to do these jobs or resort to them to get out of poverty. The child is reduced to a possession and the surrogate mother, a vending machine whom you pay to give you a baby.

The Embryo Protection Act is neither discriminatory nor homophobic because the core of this law is not about adults but about children. It centres around the embryo, his/her needs, safety and best interest. It doesn’t mean that homosexuals are incapable of rearing children. It states that which is obvious: that some people cannot have their own.

This doesn’t mean that heterosexuals are better than homosexuals. This is about accepting that being different is indeed ok. Perhaps our society needs to go through a process of understanding how people who cannot have children, do bear fruit in other ways, which are natural too and which contribute to society and to their well being too. It is finding a uniqueness in being and not wishing that all is the same for everyone. It is like having trees which bear fruit and others which are not fruit trees. All trees are beautiful and special in their own way.

It is good to remember that the roots of this Act were laid in the scenario that the embryo was still being conceived in the context of the care and warmth of a stable relationship and out of the fusion of the gametes of two people who are connected to each other. It was the context of couples who painfully took the decision to go for this process and which by no means fully replaces the loving process of conception.

Amendments to the Act can now make it a factory-like process devoid of this intention, emotion and just a fertilization process in a petri dish. So in the case of heterosexuals, using artificial interventions is a means to help nature. In other cases, it is taking it one step further.

Whilst understanding the pain of those who wish to become parents, the need of the child to be connected and with one’s biological parents should come before the fulfilment of adults becoming a mother or a father. Who is going to enlighten our society about the rights and needs of children? 

The authors, Marisa Gatt, Mariella Catania, Christine Rossi, Martha Fitz, and Suzanne Vella, are mothers and workers in the youth, educational and social fields