I spent the best part of Sunday evening with a group of colleagues poring over the new amendments for the Embryo Protection Act. After about three hours, my colleagues and I came to the conclusion that it is simply a good exercise in whitewash. A well planned thought-out document of amendments which give the impression that things have changed while in effect nothing has changed at all. Well, if I say nothing, I would be lying as one thing has changed; those children brought into the world by sperm or ovum donation will have the right to know who their real parents actually are.
It does not change the fact however that children should not be brought into the world as a commercial exercise to satisfy the whims of donors nor those of prospective wanting-to-be single or double parents, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.
Children have the right to be brought into the world, and loved and raised by their genetic parents. We should not be conveniently creating orphans and then fixing the situation afterwards. This is a process of human commercialisation and exploitation at its best. Children need to be loved and to be cared for by their real parents as a necessity, and only where there is a contingency ought they to be reared by others. This government clearly and conveniently fails to distinguish the difference between regular necessary situations and contingent ones!
Otherwise, all other ethical aspects of the proposed legislation remain exactly the same. Freezing one embryo instead of two does not change the fact that 10 to 35 per cent of embryos die in the freezing or thawing process, nor that any unused embryos might eventually remain there and remain unclaimed. Just because one possibly kills one human being rather than two does not make the situation any better or rosier. Killing innocent human beings for any reason remains a horrendous ethical watershed whatever the number – one, two, three, or a thousand human beings! Once this law passes in its present form and the principle of freezing embryos is accepted, there is nothing to keep the government from having a change of mind and heart and propose further amendments to raise the number of frozen embryos as it has done with similar controversial legislation in the past.
Likewise, because surrogacy is being removed from this law and is to be proposed in a different law that will be brought before Parliament at a later stage, does not change anything either. The government is just jesting with us, just playing for time, so that once this law is out of the way, it can move to the next step and carry out what it originally intended to achieve at a different time, but the end effect would be the same. Having made it possible for lesbian couples to have children by sperm donation, and since the state has made it legal for same sex individuals to marry, it cannot stop gay couples from having children through the induced slavery of surrogacy without discriminating against them! Here, in a way, it is the victim of its own making!
The government knows that it has finally managed to unite the whole Opposition against it through this law, so it wants to sweeten the package by breaking it up into little more digestible packets hoping to drive a wedge between its members. It is simply playing about with legislation and the situation knowing very well that rather than get to the first storey in one big step it can achieve the same result by going up the same storey in several small steps instead. I advise the Opposition and also members of the public to be very careful here. Not all is what it is made out to be. This is one of those instances where, as Minister Helena Dalli put so well in the past, the state just conjures up some hogwash about equality on complex issues and expects people to swallow it hook, line and sinker. They take us all for a gullible lot, Joseph Muscat’s government does! One might get away with this ploy initially but in reality, once bitten, twice shy. People are wising up and getting sick of this approach.
The government has bought off its whole Labour backbench by crossing their palms with silver. They are all in receipt of handsome payouts for some chairmanship, sitting on a board, or other perks. They are all silent. They will be silent on this and other ethical issues yet to come because it suits them financially to do so. Not that they are actually elected for that reason though. One is surprised how money turns wolves into sheep so quickly. I hope that we are reaching a turning point where we show this patronising lot that we are not all for buying or turning. I look forward to the day when the quest for human dignity and justice drown out the voices of this ethically mediocre government and it is not too far in the future.
Dr Asciak is Senior Lecturer II in Applied Science at MCAST.