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Cheers to life - Paula Cauchi

The Labour Party has time and again broken the silence on sensitive issues, and Tuesday’s vote in Parliament on the IVF law was another feather in the government’s cap.

Through their vote, the Labour parliamentary group gave a voice to the hundreds of infertile couples and eliminated all forms of discrimination in the IVF process while respecting the right to life.

Over the past months I have observed numerous opinion pieces by professionals and other less-professional writers on the subject, who while complaining about morality have almost hypocritically forgotten about infertile couples’ struggles.

Despite this harsh criticism, the government could not ignore the overwhelming human desire of childless couples, who have already gone to hell and back, to become parents.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat explained the Labour Party’s reasoning: this was a question of rights and equality, and equality is not à la carte: you either believe in it or not. The Labour Party has tangibly shown that it wholeheartedly believes in equality, and so do I.

This debate has been an issue of equality between individuals who have the financial means to go abroad for IVF and bypass our restrictive law and those who do not. The latter have been let down by the government. The amendments to the IVF law seek to remedy this situation and ensure a level playing field.

I haven’t experienced this struggle first-hand but thinking down the line, should the need arise for me or any of my friends or family members to resort to IVF, wouldn’t I want to be given an equal opportunity for the best possible chance to have a successful cycle?

The answer is a definite yes, and this is why I applaud Tuesday’s brave vote.

Sadly, equality was almost completely ignored by many in the IVF debate, giving centre stage to the embryo.

Sadly, equality was almost completely ignored by many in the IVF debate, giving centre stage to the embryo

I shall not digress and comment on the creative ways some individuals and institutions tried to depict embryo freezing, even though they might have been aware that embryo freezing already exists in Malta under our former law.

However, all those who were more concerned about protecting embryos should have been as shocked as I was with Mark Sant’s description of our Embryo Protection Act in a recent interview. Sant bluntly stated that our former law made way for ‘embryo destruction’ rather than protection, since, according to him, we weresending at least one-fifth of embryos to certain death.

The amendments to the IVF law will improve a law that was flawed. The government voted in favour of improved medical care and better chances for individuals to become parents, and made this medical practice available to all women, irrespective of sexual orientation and status.

This government has helped infertile individuals in an unprecedented manner, aiding those who opt for adoption by introducing a grant of up to €10,000 to parents who adopt children from abroad and those who opt for IVF, by providing this process for free at Mater Dei and by introducing an additional 100 hours of leave for parents undergoing this treatment. 

The same cannot be said for the Nationalist Party’s track record on this issue. Setting aside the fact that the Nationalist Party fell short of providing IVF free of charge when it was in government, one should remember that recently, under the leadership of Adrian Delia, the Opposition presented a motion against additional leave for individuals undergoing IVF treatment.

Yet all attempts at equality failed miserably whenever most of the PN representatives contributed to the latest IVF debate. How can infertile individuals forget Simon Busuttil’s attitude that couples who have a problem that prevents them from having children must accept it, or Edwin Vassallo calling children born through embryo adoption “orphans from conception”?

How can parents who have or will have children through IVF overcome the PN’s insensitive thirst for populism?

This week’s vote was another test on equality, and yet again, the Nationalist Party failed.

Paula Cauchi is the equal opportunities officer of the Labour Party.

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