Prime Minister Joseph Muscat gave a rousing and impassioned defence of the proposed IVF revamp this afternoon, pledging to fight for the thousands of Maltese couples silently suffering from infertility and against the “conservative forces” who want to hold them back.
“We live in a country that will help you if you have problems with your eyes or your heart, but won’t help you enough if you have health problems that disallow you from having children,” Muscat said when closing off Labour’s general conference. “I won’t speak about theories but about real-life situations. Just think about your typical Maltese couple, who spend years saving up money to buy a house and planning a wedding and a family. They dream of a simple life – of forming a modest and normal family, with children to whom they can give the best upbringing possible. Their friends start having children but they are still unable to and perhaps they even start avoiding their friends because it hurts too much seeing their children slowly growing up. When they meet up with their relatives, a good soul will ask them when they will have a child of their own. The couple will grit their teeth, put on a forced smile and tell their relatives they’re in no rush, but then they will go back home and cry in silence.”
“Eventually, the couple will seek medical advice and the advice confirms their worst fears – that one or both of them have infertility problems. They then decide to resort to IVF but encounter more problems because the current law gives them a very small chance, or no chance at all, to give birth. They then decide to undergo treatment abroad but this costs thousands of euro that they don’t have, and even if they get a loan, there’s only a 50% chance that the treatment will be successful. There are thousands of these people suffering in silence amongst us and I will be their voice. I cannot agree with those who say the desire to have children is egoistic and that those who cannot do so naturally just have to lump it. No, if there is even the smallest chance to allow the creation of another family in this country, then I will be ready to implement the necessary changes. My only regret is that this law is only taking things one step forward and isn’t giving thee families access to all the reproductive technologies that exist in the world, but this is what we had agreed with as a party and I will see this agreement through.”
Muscat dismissed moral concerns related to embryo freezing, which is expected to occur more frequently as a byproduct of the new law’s extension of the maximum number of embryos that can be created per cycle – from two to five.
Thousands of people recently protested against the proposed IVF law. Photo: Life Network
“Those who criticise us for not being clearer about our intentions with regards embryo freeing have no idea what they’re talking about, because embryo freezing has existed as a principle since the IVF law was introduced in 2012,” he said. “Some argue it is currently only an exception, but for us there can be no exceptions where principles are concerned. Where were the country’s conservative forces when the concept was introduced back in 2012? If they truly believe that embryo freezing is equivalent to abortion, then they should have spoken out back then because all we are doing now is scientifically applying the principle that was introduced back then according to the best international practices.”
The Prime Minister said he is considering tweaking the Bill to allow embryos adopted by other couples the right to access the identity of their genetic parents. However, he expressed his confidence that most of the frozen embryos will actually be used by their genetic parents themselves.
“Everyone has lost someone dear to them and left a picture of that person on a cupboard,” he said. “From time to time, you look at that picture, kiss it and think of the person. If someone told you there is a way to bring that person back to life, certainly nothing will stop you from bringing them back. Now just imagine those mothers and fathers who have given birth to a child [through IVF] and know there is a possibility to have another child through their frozen embryos. After all their strife, don’t you think they will pounce on the opportunity to have another child? Do you think they’ll want to leave them in a freezer? These are children created out of sacrifice, and the thirst for life of these parents is greater than anyone can ever imagine.”