PN wants to stop lesbians from getting medical leave for IVF abroad

Lesbians in Malta can only seek sperm implantation in IVF clinics abroad, but PN wants to bar them from claiming medical leave from work

The Nationalist Party has filed a motion in parliament against news rules that allow medical leave for people travelling abroad for in vitro fertilisation treatment.

The PN said that the legal notice published last June, was "good", but the definition of the terms “prospective parents” and “medically assisted procreation” were different from the definitions laid out in the Embryo Protection Act – the law governing IVF in Malta.

The Embryo Protection Act bans the donation of gametes - sperm and ova - but cannot prevent individuals from seeking such services abroad. In fact, the new rules grant people seeking IVF services abroad, the right for paid leave from work for the duration of their stay abroad.

The EPA also bans embryo freezing, since the law only regulates the use of frozen ova for assisted reproduction treatment,

In the Embryo Protection Act, prospective parents are defined as ”either of two persons of the opposite sex who are united in marriage, or who have attained the age of majority and are in a stable relationship with each other”. On the other hand, the legal notice now includes individuals in civil unions, in cohabitation or a stable relationship with each other.

The PN is now asking the House for “legal conformity” by amending the definitions of “prospective parent” and “medically assisted procreation” in the legal notice so that it they are in line with the Embryo Protection Act.

In comments to MaltaToday, Opposition Whip and PN deputy leadership contender David Agius said the PN simply wanted the legal notice to reflect the Embryo Protection Act. “You can’t have a legal notice saying one thing, and the law saying something different,” he said. “We are trying to avoid a situation which will result in the law being interpreted differently by different people.”

The Nationalist Party denied that the motion had been passed in order to take rights away from any individuals. “On the contrary, the Opposition, through this legal notice is assuring the current law is not broken,” it said in a statement.

Asked whether the PN would accept a change in the definition of “prospective parents” in the Embryo Protection Act in order to make it identical to that in the legal notice, given that the party has cited a lack of conformity as its main issue, Agius was non-committal.

“We will discuss that position in the parliamentary group if the government were to take this  way forward,” he said. 

Despite the PN’s claims, those opposed to its latest move have argued that changing the definition in the legal notice would only make life more difficult for those who wish to go abroad to undergo an IVF procedure. 

Speaking in parliament last June, Health Minister Chris Fearne said the government had a mandate to push forward with changes required to update the Embryo Protection Act, and to include in it the latest technological developments and to eliminate all forms of discrimination. 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat criticised the move in a tweet, insisting the PN was indeed “contesting a law giving more right to lesbian couples and infertile women”.

“The new way looks worse than the old one,” said Muscat. 

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