No reference to President's call as MPs continue to discuss IVF

The parliamentary debate on the IVF bill continued on Wednesday evening, but with no mention of the President's statements • PL MP Robert Abela pressed on the urgency of the matter, insisting the bill is not introducing anything new in principle

There was no reference in parliament tonight to the President's call for “calm and a longer period of reflection to enable voices to be heard” on the proposed changes to the IVF law. 

Earlier today, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca waded into the debate by expressing concern over hostility in public debates on the sensitive subject. 

The debate started on Tuesday and continued in parliament tonight with Labour MP Robert Abela emphasising the urgency of the bill. 

Abela explained that the bill cannot be postponed because there are people out there who are waiting to have children. “We cannot keep them waiting. We already wasted a week as the Opposition felt the need to put forward an urgent motion.”

“It’s not me who’s saying that [the bill] is urgent. Ask a 44-year old woman, for whom every minute counts.”

The concept of embryo freezing isn’t a new one, Abela said, explaining that embryo freezing was introduced in the 2012 IVF law.

The idea has existed for six years, he said, adding that although the law previously only allowed for the procedure in “exceptional” cases, the matter at hand is exceptional all throughout.

“Principles do not have exceptions – you either agree or don’t agree.”

Single persons are allowed to adopt children legally, Abela said, and there is no difference between this and embryo adoption. “Even here, we did not introduce anything new.”

Abela explained that the method of embryo freezing assures that the rate of success is higher without having the risk of life and health of women and children. “I’m trying to understand what is wrong with these amendments,” he said. “The aim behind it is life and not the loss of life.”

“It is not acceptable for the PN leader to say that this process leads to killing babies. This is an irresponsible position which we can never agree with.”

But PN MP Maria Deguara said that “just like the Roman emperor, the minister alone will decide who lives and who dies.”

Deguara said that the amendments will not be strengthening the protection of the embryo, but decreasing it drastically.

“Why is a government which claims to be the most feminist government looks at the embryo and the woman as an object to be used according to the needs of the day?” she said.

Read also: Adrian Delia insists PN government would repeal IVF changes, in spite of MPs’ free vote

Minister for Gozo Justyne Caruana, insisting that she was always “consistent” on the issue, said that the amendments will give more people a chance to have children.

“I had difficulty to have children, I had miscarriages, and I know how the wish to have children. I would have made use of IVF if I could not conceive naturally,” she said, describing the Opposition’s antagonism as “egoism”.

Caruana explained that the law will give the choice to people of whether to opt for embryo freezing or not. “If you choose to freeze, you have the obligation to implant it or give it up for adoption. So in reality, the law protects both the interests of the parents and the embryo,” she said, adding that the bill is essentially pro-life.

The bill is “built on compromises” with the family, the right of the unborn, and with human life, PN MP and spokesperson for health Claudio Grech said, explaining that the right to life is separate from any other right or any wish of any other person.

“This is not a partisan critique, but about the value of life,” he said, adding that the bill is being based hastily and not being given the treatment it deserves. “There were few bills that were as controversial within civil society and other stakeholders, as this one.”

PL MP Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said that IVF treatment was previously only available for those who could afford to pay for it, creating a classist distinction. “With the amendments, the government is increasing the possibility for more families to have children,” he said.

IVF is not a walk in the park, Zrinzo Azzopardi said. “Let’s show respect to those going through these situations,” he said, adding that Delia attempted to dilute the importance of the bill in the manner that he spoke. “We cannot be insensitive in these issues while sharing our opinion.”

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