Government’s bill on ‘In vitro fertilisation’ is expected to be published today. It is still too early to say whether it will be discussed in Parliament before the coming election. The PL has already stated that it would legislate in favour of the introduction of IVF when it is in government. As expected, the local religious authorities have expressed their opposition to the introduction of IVF through a pastoral letter.
Dr. Gonzi’s government has been sitting on the fence for a very long time. Parliamentary committees have been discussing some form of assisted procreation since 2005. Last February, the responsible Minister said that an IVF bill would be discussed in Parliament within two months. However, it took the Minister five months to come up with a name for the bill and nothing else. In fact, earlier this month Minister Chris Said moved the first reading of a bill entitled ‘Protection of Embryos Act’ to which the contents is still unknown. This is probably because Lawrence Gonzi himself had expressed concern since the regularisation of IVF would not be in line with what the Church wanted.
The Maltese Church authorities, in their pastoral letter, have given several details about the IVF process and their views on the introduction of such a bill. By virtue of our constitution, Malta is a secular state. It is a democratic country with full rights of freedom of expression. The Maltese Church has every right to present its views from a religious angle.
Various citizens’ rights groups have every right to lobby for the introduction of such a law, especially since IVF gives hope to couples who would like to start a family and have children. It has been available in Malta privately for quite some time. Another argument in their favour is that state of the art equipment for IVF is available at the state hospital, in Mater Dei.
The prime minister is in a dilemma. The church states that approval of IVF legislation by ‘a majority vote in Parliament’ cannot be morally justified under any circumstances. Yet, Dr. Gonzi himself has already stated that the bill would be brought before Parliament for discussion. We still have to see what kind of bill it will be and whether it is formulated in such a way to make IVF very difficult and complicated to carry out There had been consensus on the work done by a parliamentary committee headed by MP Jean Pierre Farrugia but the government withdrew its support to the conclusions reached by that committee.
Last May Labour leader Joseph Muscat said that a Labour government would implement a law regulating IVF immediately if elected to power. Muscat said that the "bishops" within the "GonziPN administration" had hijacked the parliament's plan to approve the law. "We have a responsible law which awaits our approval. We have nothing against the Church whose duty is to practice its preaching, but in a modern society we do not expect a political party to be confessional."
Muscat said the IVF law would give couples the chance to have children. "But the more time passes, the more we are making it impossible for certain couples to become parents.
"How can we remain silent when faced by such injustice? If elected, we would implement the law immediately," he said.