Nationalist Party says it will review new IVF law changes after government backtracks

The Nationalist Party said it will be reviewing the fresh changes to the IVF law put forward by the government as it called for wider consultation on the matter • Alternattiva Demokratika welcomes government move

Wider consultation is necessary to discuss sensitive issues such as in-vitro fertilisation and embryo freezing, the Nationalist Party said in response to the fresh changes proposed by the government.

The government yesterday proposed changes to its own amendments that would see the Embryo Protection Act change to include embryo freezing and gamete donation.

In its partial retreat, the government is now proposing to remove altruistic surrogacy from the amendments and instead discuss this matter as a separate Bill. The government has also retracted on anonymous gamete donation by proposing that children born out of donated sperm and eggs be given the right to know who their biological parents are upon reaching 18. 

The Opposition had unanimously voted against the government amendments in the Second Reading of the Bill. In its reaction to the fresh changes announced by the government, the PN said the latest move confirmed that the initial amendments were rash.

The PN said the government was reacting to a wave of criticism. A protest march against government's plans had also been held in Valletta last April.

"The Opposition will review the changes to the amendments and determine whether they go far enough to address the concerns raised by the PN and civil society," Opposition spokesperson Claudio Grech and Stephen Spiteri said in a statement.

They called for wider consolation and debate, insisting that life should be protected at all stages, "even at the very beginning". The Opposition will also keep in mind the struggles that infertile couples go through, they added.

Apart from saying that all steps of the medical treatment leading to IVF should be made available free on the national health service, the Opposition has so far stopped short of defining what it means when it says it will keep in mind the struggles of infertile couples.

The committee stage of the Bill is expected to start tomorrow. This is when MPs debate the individual clauses and make amendments to the legal text as necessary.

Speaker Anglu Farrugia has invited the public to attend a public consultation related to the IVF amendments and this will take place tomorrow at noon in Parliament, just before MPs start debating the individual clauses. This is an unorthodox move, which was agreed to by the government and Opposition in the wake of multiple calls for further consultation on the controversial Bill.

Meanwhile, Alternattiva Demokratika welcomed the fresh changes proposed by Health Minister Chris Fearne. AD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said: "Minister Fearne's amendments on behalf of the government mean that children born through gamete donation will, on reaching adulthood, have the right to know the identity of the donor. This is consonant with decisions given by courts in other EU countries and common practice internationally. These amendments balance the rights of all parties involved."

On the commitment to have surrogacy discussed as a separate issue, AD noted that government realised the need for "a deep and comprehensive discussion" on this complex issue.

"Discussion is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that different opinions are valued and respected. What is clear is that as a country we need to respect each other's opinions more," Cacopardo said.

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