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Lawyer files constitutional application against IVF amendments

Tonio Azzopardi wants embryo freezing legislation declared null

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Updated 1.20pm

A long-practicing lawyer with a background in human rights law has added his voice to the chorus of opposition to proposed amendments to the Embryo Protection Act and filed a constitutional application in his personal capacity.

Lawyer Tonio Azzopardi wants the proposed amendments nullified, arguing against them on a number of grounds.

Dr Azzopardi is arguing that Maltese law protects human life in all its stages, including those before birth, and that legislation allowing embryo freezing would therefore place the life of the unborn child in clear and manifest danger.

Moreover, by allowing for the selection of the ‘best’ three embryos, out of the fertilized five, the proposed law was a threat to the right to life, as protected under article 33 of the Constitution and article 2 of the European Convention.

This medical selection led to the discarding of the ‘weaker’ embryos, a clear threat to their right to life, which was tantamount to a crime punishable with imprisonment under our law.

Dr Azzopardi is arguing that embryos are human beings with a right to be protected as laid down under the Convention on Children’s Rights, to which Malta is a signatory, even though they lack a voice.

This convention clearly states that the child “by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”

Likewise, by inducing a woman, in a moment of vulnerability, to concede to a forced adoption, also amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, the applicant argued further.

Embryo freezing is a highly lucrative business which should, however, not be allowed at the detriment of the embryo, Dr Azzopardi argued, adding further that the stockpiling of embryos amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Dr Azzopardi is also arguing that procreation with the express intention of raising a child as a single parent would constitute a breach of their right to protection against inhuman and degrading treatment.

Finally, by severing the natural bonds between the mother and her embryo, the proposed amendments ran counter to the right to private and family life as safeguarded under article 8 of the European Convention, not to mention the possible scenario of embryos being born orphaned, both their parents having passed away before their birth.

Health Ministry reacts

The Health Ministry reacted to Dr Azzopardi’s constitutional application by highlighting his dismissal of single parenting as being somehow inferior.
“The government cannot accept any such discourse, which is hurtful to single partents,” the ministry said.

It also said Dr Azzopardi’s assertion that procreation “should only take place between a man and a woman” was in itself discriminatory.

Dr Azzopardi’s case, the ministry said, was drafted in such a way as to stop more “mothers and fathers from becoming parents”.

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