Petition against embryo freezing asks MPs not to change IVF law

A parliamentary petition against embryo freezing says proposed changes to the Embryo Protection Act will allow five eggs to be fertilised but only two will be implanted in the prospective mother’s womb while the others will be frozen for future use

A parliamentary petition is calling for embryo freezing to remain banned
A parliamentary petition is calling for embryo freezing to remain banned

A parliamentary petition is calling on MPs to oppose any changes to the Embryo Protection Act that will allow embryo freezing to happen.

The petition on Parliament’s website asks MPs to ensure that “every embryo is protected and the Embryo Protection Act is not amended”.

Started on 3 April by a certain Emanuela Cachia, the petition comes as government prepares to publish its proposals to change the existing law, which is restrictive.

Embryo freezing is currently not allowed bar exceptional circumstances where the transfer of the embryos cannot happen, such as if the woman has an accident before implantation occurs.

Cachia says in the petition that present day technology does not guarantee that the three frozen embryos will survive the procedure and that the embryos will eventually be implanted in the mother’s womb.

“The Embryo Protection Act provides for the protection of human embryos. The purpose of this petition is to uphold this universal right: the right to life,” Cachia says, adding people had no right to choose who lived and who died.

Current IVF legislation only allows doctors to fertilise two eggs
Current IVF legislation only allows doctors to fertilise two eggs

The current law allows doctors to fertilise only two eggs and in exceptional circumstances three, and all resultant embryos will have to be transferred to the woman.

Health Minister Chris Fearne and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat have both gone on record saying that embryo freezing should be allowed as part of the medical process. Last month, Muscat said the Labour parliamentary group had agreed with proposed amendments.

However, despite no details of the proposed changes have yet been released, the petitioner claims that the new law would allow doctors to fertilise up to five eggs – two will be implanted in the prospective mother’s womb and three will be frozen for future use.

The information appears to be based on a 2015 interview Muscat gave MaltaToday, in which he said a new law will allow doctors to fertilise five eggs but implant only two embryos at any one time. If more than two embryos result from the process, the rest will be frozen, Muscat had said.

Joseph Muscat tried pushing for embryo freezing in the last legislature but faced opposition within the Labour parliamentary group that does not appear to be there this time around
Joseph Muscat tried pushing for embryo freezing in the last legislature but faced opposition within the Labour parliamentary group that does not appear to be there this time around

The proposed changes were never brought before Parliament since the Labour parliamentary group at the time was split on the matter.

Since being returned after the last election, Muscat has insisted the changes will be made to ensure that in-vitro fertilisation is accessible to all women, including lesbian couples.

The petition is collecting signatures through Parliament’s website and closes on 5 June 2018. Under parliamentary rules, MPs will have to decide what to do with the petition, once it closes.

By Sunday evening it had collected 444 signatures, including that of Democratic Party MP Godfrey Farrugia, who said in a video clip on Facebook that embryo freezing was “a legal way of clearing the road for abortion to be introduced under international law”.

Read also: Parliament to discuss bill amending ‘outdated, restrictive’ Embryo Act after Easter

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