MaltaToday Survey | Greatest opposition to IVF amendments came from women, survey shows

Relative majority supported original IVF proposals

The latest MaltaToday survey indicates that a relative majority supported the government's original IVF proposals
The latest MaltaToday survey indicates that a relative majority supported the government's original IVF proposals

 

Changes to the law regulating in-vitro fertilisation were supported by a relative majority of people with the greatest opposition coming from women, a MaltaToday survey found.

The survey was conducted a week before the government withdrew its proposals to include surrogacy and anonymous gamete donation.

While overall, 43.2% of people said they were in favour of the proposed IVF law amendments, 37.4% said they were against. Another 18.1% were unsure.

But the survey also found a split in opinion between men and women. While 45.8% of men were in favour of the proposed changes and 31% against, the balance was reversed among women.

The survey showed that 40.5% of women supported the IVF amendments, while 43.2% were against.

Women were also more decided than men. While 13.2% of females were uncertain of their stand, the level of uncertainty increased to 23.2% among males.

The survey was held between the 28 and 31 May. A week later, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced changes to the original amendments with the most salient being the removal of surrogacy from the Bill and the partial lifting of anonymity in gamete donation.

Embryo freezing, gamete donation and making IVF accessible to all women, irrespective of sexual orientation and status, still form part of the changes government is pushing through.

The IVF law amendments are currently being debated at committee stage in Parliament. Last week, government MPs rejected amendments proposed by the Opposition to limit IVF to couples with an infertility problem.

The Nationalist Party’s proposal would have effectively barred same-sex couples and singles from having access to IVF.

The committee debate is continuing and in an orthodox move, stakeholders are also being allowed to make their submissions as part of the clause-by-clause analysis.

Young in favour, elderly against

It remains unclear whether the government’s backtracking on certain aspects of the proposed changes would have nudged the results towards stronger support.

But the survey did find a generational split. A relative majority of those aged between 18 and 50 were in favour of the original proposals but the balance shifts against after that.

The strongest support was among those aged 18-35 where 47.5% were in favour and 21.9% against. The strongest opposition was among those aged 65 and over, where 51.5% said they were against and 39.8% in favour.

The young and the elderly also had the highest and lowest levels of undecided, respectively. While 29.6% of those aged 18-35 did not know where they stood on the matter, the number dropped to just 7.7% among the 65+ category.

Support for the IVF changes was evident in four of the six regions.

While the Southern Harbour and South Eastern regions exhibited the strongest support – 49.7% and 48.8% respectively – in Gozo and the Northern Harbour regions, a relative majority opposed the proposed IVF law.

A breakdown of results by how people voted in the last election reflected the respective positions adopted by the major political parties.

The government proposals found strong support among those who voted for the Labour Party in the last election, with 66.8% in favour and 13% against.

But the findings flipped among those who voted for the Nationalist Party – 13.2% of 2017 PN voters agreed with the IVF changes, while 71.1% were against.

Opposition to the proposed IVF amendments was highest among those with a primary and university education, while support came from those with a secondary and post-secondary education.

IVF amendments

The government has put forward changes to the Embryo Protection Act. Some of the salient changes are:

  • Embryo freezing will become an integral part of the IVF process
  • Doctors will be able to fertilise up to five eggs
  • IVF will be available for same-sex couples and single women
  • Sperm and egg donation will be possible and under the fresh changes, a child born through this process will have the right to know who the donor was when he is 18
  • The inclusion of gamete donation lifts the barrier currently in place for sterile couples
  • Adoption of frozen embryos will be possible

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