Fearne throws down gauntlet to Bernard Grech with bill for IVF genetic testing

Health minister Chris Fearne has announced he will move amendments to the IVF law to introduce PGD testing

Deputy prime minister Chris Fearne
Deputy prime minister Chris Fearne

Health minister and deputy prime minister Chris Fearne has announced he will move amendments to Malta’s IVF law, to introduce pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a test used to screen embryos for any genetic defects before they are implanted.

The PGD test remained elusive in Malta’s IVF regime, after embryo freezing was first banned by the Nationalist government in 2012, and then reintroduced by the Labour government in 2013. But PGD testing was never introduced in the two rounds of legislation for in vitro fertilisation in a bid to placate critics of the law.

If introduced, PGD testing will allow prospective couples carrying hereditary diseases to use IVF to produce embryos that do not have genes that carry the disease.

But Fearne also threw down the gauntlet at Opposition leader Bernard Grech, who earlier this week claimed IVF couples in Malta were forking out thousands for IVF treatment despite getting free medical consultation from the national health system.

“I’m hearing Grech say he doesn’t want couples to be forced to get IVF treatment abroad,” Fearne said on One TV’s Pjazza. “I therefore expect him to support this Bill and not put spokes in the wheel,” referring to the PN’s 

Grech this week said a PN in government would guarantee couples will get free IVF treatment in Malta. “I know of couples who spent up to €4,000 for IVF treatment in Malta. There are others who have to leave Malta for treatment abroad.”

The government’s last changes to the Embryo Protection Act were voted into law in June 2018, ushering in important developments to the law to allow all women, irrespective of sexual orientation and status, to have access to IVF.

An original proposal to legalise altruistic surrogacy was removed from the Bill after public pressure. Surrogacy would have allowed women unable to carry a child in their womb, the possibility to become mothers. It also meant that the whole spectrum of the LGBTI community could use surrogacy as an option to become parents.