In the past week, we have seen a series of debates explode in the news regarding the introduction of a supposedly innocuous legal notice (156 of 2017) regarding leave for medically assisted procreation.
On close examination of this legal notice, one finds a change in the definition of “prospective parents” to now be “the two persons who are united in marriage, civil union, cohabitation or who have attained the age of majority and are in a stable relationship with each other”.
According to the Embryo Protection Act, prospective parents are clearly stated to be one man and one woman.
The battle is set to start to dismantle the Embryo Protection Act quickly and quietly in the name of a new freedom that excludes the rights of the child.
In this heated debate, it is very easy to dismiss what this Act stands for.
It stands for defending life from conception. It makes Malta unique in its defence of life. A stance that irks most of our European neighbours but also a stance that wins us admiration from abortion-torn countries which are doing their very best to overturn the infamous Roe vs Wade that legalised abortion. Are we ready to remove this frontier protecting life?
If so, the people deserve to know the truth. Undermining this Act by stealth is dishonest to say the least. A strong embryo protection law will prevent abortion from ever becoming legal locally.
This law is not about discrimination.
Ministers Chris Fearne and Helena Dalli can have as many press conferences as they wish but they cannot alter the facts of nature, and Fearne, a doctor, is all the more aware of this. It is nature that does not allow homosexual couples to have children, not inequality laws.
The feminist movement in Europe is also against surrogacy in principle, which is seen as the ultimate exploitation of a woman’s body
Sperm donation as defined by children from these procedures is “the abandoning of children by their genetic fathers”.
Paternity cannot be donated, because children need kinship bonds. By the same principle, if sperm donation is introduced for lesbians, their male counterparts will be up in arms quoting discrimination too, and in this way surrogacy will come in.
Regarding surrogacy, it is pertinent to note that the European Parliament rejected a draft report on surrogacy in the EU in February 2017.
The feminist movement in Europe is also against surrogacy in principle, which is seen as the ultimate exploitation of a woman’s body. In Malta women’s lobby groups are very silent on this issue.
In the arguments that are being put forward it is very clear that all parties are ignoring the ‘elephant in the room, that is the child born from these procedures.
Ignoring the rights of the child is easy, but we do so to the detriment of our society. In the Convention for the Rights of the Child, Article 3, we find that the best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them.
In Article 4, on the Protection of Rights, governments are entrusted with the responsibility to take all available measures to ensure children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.
The Convention for the Rights of the Child also reinforces children’s rights to know and, as far as possible, to be cared for by their biological parents.
Children also have the right to know their identity. Hence the importance of acknowledging kinship bonds.
The Embryo Protection Act is valid and was voted for by a consensus from both sides of Parliament. This is because although it seeks to help couples suffering from problems of infertility, at the same time it safeguards the rights of the child while still in the embryonic stage.
The Act is based on an equality that includes the preborn child.
Our elected politicians are the elected guardians of the people of Malta, including the preborn. It is their duty to protect life from conception. The absolute majority of the people expect and demand this.
Equality is being taken a step too far when it excludes the rights of children and the protection of embryonic human beings.
Miriam Sciberras is chair of Life Network Foundation Malta.