Severing the bonds of life

The latest hot discussion in widening the scope of the Embryo Protection Act is for allowing anonymous gamete donation.

This means using a third party, that is, a man or woman, other than the couple, to provide sperm or egg. In this case, the donor is given an altruistic description  comparing this to an act of organ or blood donation when nothing could be further from the truth. It ignores what is required to create these children: exploitation of women and children, health endangerment and the commodification of human life.

Gamete donation carries a heavy responsibility. A human life is created from gametes. This new human life is the child, the baby. The biological link between parent and child is undeniably intimate and, when severed, there are lasting repercussions for all parties.

Why is no one with authority considering the needs and rights of children as the adult-centred discussion rages on?

A local IVF expert has become the front set on removing any boundaries in the process of producing a child.

What should be a discussion that includes all the stakeholders in the issue has become a one-sided front. It risks pitting children against their parents. This is very dangerous, as, in this way, the child can become a means to an end, justifying any method used in his or her conception.

Anonymous sperm or egg donation from abroad is being touted as the solution for single women and infertile couples. We are told “a large sperm pool should set our minds at rest” from problems of consanguinity, as if our children cannot travel, move away or study abroad and meet anonymous half-siblings. In the quest for a child, no one seems to care about the baby.

‘Single mothers by choice’ is being promoted as an option that should be available. Will it also be eligible for social services by choice? Should it not be only offered as a support for those in crisis pregnancy only? Who will make the distinction?

Where are the women’s lobby groups when it comes to surrogacy? Pro-lifers and women’s groups typically come together against surrogacy as the ultimate exploitation of women worldwide. Why are they silent in this blessed country?


Where are the voices of the Embryo Protection Authority in this matter? Are they not worried that our children are to be treated in this way? Where is the Commissioner for Children?

The child deserves protection before as well as after birth. In the UK, anonymous gamete donation was banned after the authorities listened to the plea of donor children. There was a highly-publicised court case that led to this, and donor conceived Joanna Rose was in Malta to testify.

The Commissioner for Children has a duty to meet her and others who have children’s rights at heart. Her brief should compel her to speak out on behalf of children born from these technologies.

In the course of my work, I have personally spoken to Rose many times, and, in compiling research for her PhD, she illustrates how the IVF industry blatantly refuses to acknowledge the grief inflicted on children like her.

I have also spoken to British-born Tom Ellis, a young man with a master’s degree from Cambridge, who was also conceived through anonymous gamete donation.

He describes his painful unresolved situation explicitly: “I am reasonably successful but it doesn’t make me feel any better about not knowing who I am. There is a saying that there are two lasting bequests we can give our children: one is roots and the other is wings. I think donor-conception denies a child both of these. I feel like a tree that has half of its roots missing. And without them, I can hardly stand up.”

Maltese society has always protected and valued children from conception, both locally and internationally. Alarm bells should start ringing in this discussion, where we now see a sudden change of ethos towards the protection of life from conception, when ethical issues become dismissed and where doubts are intentionally sown on the beginning of life.

Where are we going with this debate?

Why do adults have a ‘right’ to a child, while a child has no right to a father or mother? Why are we speaking of intentionally robbing children of their genetic parents as progressive treatment?

Are we on the way to making Malta, once a haven for child protection, a popular destination for international, free-for-all, unregulated fertility tourism?

Is this the next political ball game?

My heartfelt plea goes to all our politicians. Please, get your act together and stop this. Consider the facts: embryo protection is the only frontier against abortion.

The stakes for life are high. It took an incredible feat of courage for the entire House of Representatives to come together when the Embryo Protection Act came into law. Let us keep it that way.

Miriam Sciberras is chairwoman of Life Network Foundation Malta.

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