[WATCH] Parliament votes in favour of 'historic' IVF law changes amid pro-life groups' demonstration

Embryo freezing to become widely permissible, as Embryo Protection Act changes voted into law • Adrian Delia said he was giving PN MPs free vote

Pro-life group members have gathered outside Parliament in demonstration, as MPs are expected to take the last vote on the IVF Bill tonight
Pro-life group members have gathered outside Parliament in demonstration, as MPs are expected to take the last vote on the IVF Bill tonight
Parliament votes in favour of 'historic' IVF law changes amid pro-life groups' demonstration

The government's proposed changes to the Embryo Protection Act have been voted into law, as MPs voted for the amendments after the IVF Bill's Third Reading, with 34 votes in favour and 27 against.

The Opposition leader re-confirmed before the vote was taken that he was granting his MPs a free vote. Government Ministers Carmelo Abela and Helena Dalli, and government MP Edward Zammit Lewis were absent, as were Nationalist MPs Toni Bezzina and Clyde Puli. PD MP Marlene Farrugia was also not present.

Just an hour before the voting happened, Health Minister Chris Fearne said Parliament would be writing another page in Malta's history - giving prospective parents a better chances of having a child - as pro-life groups held a quiet demonstration, opposing the changes to the law, outside.

IVF Bill to be passed tonight, as pro-life groups demonstrate outside Parliament

"Every child born by IVF, after years of suffering by its father, is a new miracle, of which we wish to see more," Fearne underlined in a press conference before the vote was taken.

"I am more proud today than ever before to be part of the Labour party," he remarked, "From the start of this process we kept to our principle of giving medical care at the highest possible level to those who need it the most. If science enables us to give such care, we will give it."

Fearne said the time had come for politicians to let doctors do their job, and discrimination had to be eliminated on medical issues.

Health Minister Chris Fearne
Health Minister Chris Fearne

He insisted that the government had undertaken a consultation process, even though after the Bill's Second Reading it was clear that there was a good majority in Parliament in favour of the legal amendments.

"We did not just listen, we also made changes to our proposals - we understood that we had to remove altruistic surrogacy from this law, and discuss it as a separate law," he said, "During committee stage we had a long, detailed discussion on all those who wanted to come to Parliament and discuss with us. While we took on board certain suggestions, we could not agree with them."

He said the government had rejected a suggestion to put high fees on embryo freezing, as this would create financial discrimination, and the government could not approve of proposals which made IVF unavailable to those who couldn't afford it."

"The current IVF system has failed four out of five couples who wanted to have childer, but there are medical processes which can help these people. What we are doing is letting people do their work," he highlighted.

Earlier

The government's proposed amendments to the Embryo Protection Act, which amongst other changes, will be introducing embryo freezing to Malta, will be voted on by MPs in Parliament tonight.

With government MPs expected to vote in favour of the changes, and the law expected to go through after today's Third Reading, a number of pro-life group members have gathered outside Parliament to offer a last stand against the changes which they have been very critical of in the past months.

Amongst their main arguments, the groups are asking why it should be possible for us to choose which embryos live, and which do not. They also said they felt their arguments against the changes had not been listened too by the government.

Pro-life lawyer Tonio Azzopardi earlier today filed a constitutional application, in his personal capacity, asking for the proposed changes to be nullified.

PN leader Adrian Delia (centre) flanked by Claudio Grech and Kristy Debono
PN leader Adrian Delia (centre) flanked by Claudio Grech and Kristy Debono

Azzopardi is making the argument that life before conception is protected under Maltese law, and that any legislation which allows the freezing of embryos would place the life of the unborn child in clear and manifest danger.

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca met with representatives of the pro-life groups on Sunday, where she made it clear that she is constitutionally bound to act on the advice of the government and in the case of Bills approved by Parliament to assent “without delay", effectively shutting down speculation that she may refuse to sign on the Bill after it is approved by Parliament.

Opposition says IVF Bill remains unacceptable, destroys life

Speaking just before Parliament was about to vote on the Third Reading of the IVF Bill, Opposition leader Adrian Delia reiterated the Nationalist Party's stance against the law, which he said "destroys the life of the unborn child, and gives the minister the power to decide who lives and who dies."

Delia said he would be giving his MPs a free vote on the matter, as he did with other ethical and moral matters.

"This Bill creates inequality before birth," Delia emphasised, "And it creates a state without a soul."

Asked whether he would be in favour of an abrogative referendum on the Bill, Delia said this would depend on exactly what would be the law to be abrogated, as the Opposition did not want to in any way remove the main Embryo Protection Act.

However, the PN would be in favour of any initiative which conserved life he said, adding that, if in government, it would remove any law which went against life.

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