Labour backbencher wants specific parliamentary committees to discuss abortion, euthanasia

Labour MP Michael Farrugia says parliament should set up ad hoc committees to discuss policymaking options on abortion, euthanasia, surrogacy and adoption of frozen embryos

Labour MP Michael Farrugia
Labour MP Michael Farrugia

Labour backbencher Michael Farrugia believes parliament should set up ad hoc committees to discuss the ethically sensitive issues of surrogacy, abortion, euthanasia and adoption of frozen embryos.

Farrugia said it was time that MPs listened to Maltese and foreign experts, and the people, to formulate policy in these areas.

“I have my personal views on these issues but I would rather listen to experts and what people have to say before reaching my own conclusions as a legislator,” Farrugia said on Tuesday during an adjournment speech in parliament.

Farrugia said the World Health Organisation and the EU considered abortion as intrinsically linked to women’s health. “We have to listen, not only to activists in favour or against, but also to experts, even from abroad to help us understand the subject,” Farrugia added.

Similarly, on euthanasia and surrogacy (whereby a woman carries another woman’s pregnancy because the natural mother is unable to do so for health reasons), MPs should listen to what experts have to say. On the adoption of frozen embryos, which Farrugia noted was already agreed on in principle when the law regulating IVF was amended, there should be a specific law, he added.

A medical doctor by profession and a former minister in various Labour administrations, he recalled the creation of an ad hoc parliamentary committee set up between 2008 and 2012 that discussed IVF. The committee, composed of MPs from both sides of the House had unanimously come up with a blueprint of a law that included embryo freezing.

Farrugia was the Opposition MP on that committee, chaired by then Nationalist MP and doctor Jean Pierre Farrugia. The other member was then PN MP Frans Agius, also a doctor. The committee's recommendations had been passed on to the Nationalist government at the time.

“The government eventually went on to present a very conservative law but the committee had spent hours hearing Maltese and foreign experts, apart from other people and I recall that Prof. Gianaroli [an Italian IVF expert] had helped answer several questions and concerns that enabled the committee to reach a unanimous position,” Farrugia said.

He noted that most of the recommendations made by that ad hoc committee were eventually incorporated in reforms pushed by the Labour government after 2013.

“The time has come for this parliament to set up specific committees to discuss these four key issues so that it can formulate policy… as a politician I have my opinion but I will not say it because I need to hear more,” he said.

Farrugia also spoke about the need for sexual education to be taught uniformly in all secondary schools, irrespective if they are State, church or independent schools.

“It is important that students approaching the age when they may become sexually active are informed of all the options available to prevent not only pregnancy but also sexually transmitted diseases,” he said, adding that education should also be extended to their parents.