The government has just published the amendments to the Embryo Protection Act with the sole aim of not only dismantling this Act and the protection of human life that it provides, but also aims to create a gross travesty of fundamental human rights in general. From what Health Minister Chris Fearne said in Parliament on presentation of the first reading of the Bill, he has done as his colleague Helena Dalli has so ineptly declared, and taken us all to be fools by creating some silly narrative about some persons’ rights. These not only are not even fundamental rights but also are no rights at law or in reason, at all.
The right to life of every human being at the stage of early development is going to be dismantled by allowing embryo freezing with one-time narrative for the gullible. Embryo freezing is a threat to human life on two counts. First, the actual freezing process destroys many of them; secondly, not all are used with the eventual build-up of a parallel frozen humanity which presents an ethical conundrum with what to do with them, which is usually disposing of them by letting them die by thawing. There are over two million frozen embryos in the world today. A parallel humanity in limbo even though the Catholic Church has dispensed with the metaphysical version! The reality is that our pregnancy rate with egg freezing rather than embryo freezing is giving us equitable results as those abroad so that this change is highly questionable. Prima facie, the right to life of a human being is being threatened here for some other questionable rights.
The rights of children are also being put on the line with the allowing of gamete (egg and sperm) donation to both homosexual and heterosexual couples. This is because children are going to become a commodity, a commercial good to be dispensed with at will rather than children brought up in the security of a loving family. Children will be donated at will to other couples who might or might not look after them well. The reality is that not only will children be commodified as a good now, but they will lose a very important right, which is so eloquently stated in the Charter of (Fundamental) Children’s Rights, the right to an identity, foremost among which is that of a genetic identity. Like back in Roman times, children will lose their rights and become like slaves in a commercial market if not on the rubbish or prostitution heaps! Although the minister has stated that no fees will be charged for these “goods”, there will be no way of actually controlling this, and these “children goods” will, as usual, go to the unofficial highest bidder through unofficial alleyways which are impossible to control.
Neo-slavery is not only a present danger to children but also to women who, with the introduction of surrogacy, will also become commodified goods on the commercial market. They will be used and disposed of as needed according to the needs of the market at an undisclosed price, which price can, again, never be controlled and which can be paid back in several ways. The European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have both passed resolutions on surrogacy, which for this government seem to have remained simply resolutions in ink! Usually it is the poorest women in society that end up prey to the needs of other ‘wealthier’ members, again creating a further dispatching of the dignity of women, who not only have their body used to make others happy, but end up having to counter and forego their own maternal instincts in the process. God only knows what will happen to these children born through surrogacy if they might have disabilities and abnormalities. The world already has a tendency to put down these children with disabilities by exterminating and disowning them when they belong to the very people who produced them, because said children are not ‘perfect’, let alone when these children become products to third parties on the human commodity circus.
It is good that the state helps infertile parents have children. However, there are limits to this help and these limits are reached when the fundamental rights of others are breached by the action of individuals and the state. Since the law has not yet been published, and here I am limiting myself to what the minister said, there are probably other threats to fundamental rights being breached by the new law. I hope that the parties in Opposition will have the courage to reject this bill with the legal opposition they are capable of, putting up an effective resistance rather than appear to be complicit in this travesty for simple populist reasons. NGOs have a role here too. If the Bill presented actually becomes law, then it should be challenged in our Law Courts. Our Constitution still gives citizens fundamental rights which cannot be written away by a government which being at the pinnacle of power, believes it can manipulate things infinitely and trample on people’s rights and in an act of arrogance literally throw out the baby with the bath water!
Dr Asciak is Senior Lecturer II in the Institute of Applied Science at MCAST