• Team Owen Bonnici

A new way forward



Undeniably we are living in an age of outstanding progress both globally but more so nationally; an era where our country has proven time and again that it is at the forefront of change, for the betterment of society. It is also very evident that this Government has always stood for the rights of minorities and ensured to stand up for them with decisions taken which were a first for their time, like when a Labour Government gave voting rights to women in 1947 and recent years with the introduction of rights for the LGBTI community such as marriage and adoption. Malta was amongst the first in the world to introduce such changes and other more liberal, and advanced countries have followed our lead. This is because we truly care in ensuring a happier more fulfilling life for everyone.

The next step is to widen the possibility of a person to become a parent. This is another step forward for those in need, for someone who never thought this was possible. We have provided for a more suitable environment to fulfil the Government's obligation to give a prospective parent the right to become one. The proposed amendments to the Embryo Protection Act will aid to more individuals having access to in-vitro fertilisation and aim to increase the chances of a couple that is infertile to have a child.

Discussion has also arisen on the provision for the possibility of the donation of fertilized eggs, for the freezing of fertilized eggs and for the de-criminalisation of non-commercial surrogacy.

Through these changes, any adult, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, will be able to become a parent. There are so many willing and aspiring parents, but due to infertility and limitations they are unfortunately not able to have children. These amendments will finally give them the possibility and a greater chance, to become parents.

Currently, no more than two eggs can be fertilised. Through this new bill, doctors, with the parents' consent, will have the possibility to fertilise more than two eggs within each treatment cycle, thus increasing the chances of parenthood. However, should the prospective parents undergoing medically assisted procreation procedures do not give their consent to cryo-preservation of embryos and to the donation of fertilised eggs, only a maximum of two eggs can be fertilised.

This is giving the prospective parent the option to choose which way they would like to go, it is opening more possibilities of parent-hood, not only for heterosexual couples but to any adult who wishes to become a parent.

Should the parent, or parents, in question, wish to proceed with cryo-preservation of fertilised eggs, the parents and the Authority enter into an agreement of a maximum of five years where these eggs can be transferred into the prospective parent. Should the five years be exceeded, the Authority shall authorise the donation of the cryo-preserved embryo.

A confidential register of every medically assisted procreation procedure, germ line cell donation, cryopreservation of germ line cells, cryo-preservation of fertilised eggs and embryo adoption in terms of this Act shall be kept.

These amendments will bring forth the de-criminalisation of non-commercial surrogacy. Surrogacy against payment will still be illegal. The Minister for Health shall by regulations prescribe the manner in which altruistic surrogacy, the term used in the bill, shall be effected.

This Government wants to empower people who seek to undergo IVF procedures. It is entirely up to the prospective parent to see what they wish to do. Current law is more limiting, and the introduction if these amendments would mean more possibilities, opportunities and a larger chance to become a parent.

Debate has arisen on the issue of embryo donation. The adoption of an embryo may only take place further to a decision in writing of the Authority following an application from the prospective parent or parents and after determining the eligibility and sustainability of the applicants. In this way, the embryo is even more protected and the process is better defined.

The Authority will also make all reasonable efforts to match prospective adoptive parents with embryos who require an adoption placement. Identities in adoptive cases will remain anonymous, and prospective parents will be entitled to generic information and simultaneous implantation of embryos originating from different persons in a prospective parent during the same cycle is prohibited. When the embryo's adoption is finalised, the persons from whom the embryo originated shall lose all rights and shall be freed from all obligations.

The proposed amendments see to the donation of sperm cells, cryo-preserved in authorised banks during the lifetime of the person they originate from as well as the cryo-preservation of oocytes until the maximum permissible age of fertilisation. Prospective parents shall only be entitled to obtain generic information and the donors identity shall remain confidential in all cases, except in cases of direct donation.

Legally, this Act will be providing many options to prospective parents, and our duty is to keep strengthening and modernising our legal system to fulfil today's expectations for a modern, inclusive society. This progress is building up on previous successes we've had with the introduction if inclusive legislation in recent years.

One has to walk in another person's shoes to understand their feelings and their needs, and through the introduction of these amendments we are showing that we are here to listen and to ensure the best possibilities for our people and our country are always available.

Through this particular law we are promoting and ensuring the principle of inclusivity because our laws need to be inclusive enough to reflect our society's, including minorities' needs to allow everyone to live a happy and more fulfilling life.

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