The Embryo Protection Bill, commonly referred to as the IVF Bill, was yesterday approved in all remaining stages of the parliamentary process after it cleared the committee stage when the Opposition withdrew a request for a division on its amendment.
The amendment would have allowed surrogacy “in exceptional cases”, such as when a woman whose eggs have been frozen is suddenly incapacitated.
The Opposition had suggested that, in such cases, the woman should be able to choose a surrogate mother.
After a break for consultations following four hours of debate, Labour MP George Vella said the Opposition did not want to stall the process and risk all the work being lost if the House was dissolved once the Budget was presented.
Dr Vella said that the Opposition was not taking the decision capriciously. It believed that its arguments in such an exceptional case were “morally, ethically and legally correct”. Once the Government side continued to hold its ground, the Opposition did not want to risk losing everything.
Owen Bonnici (PL) then withdrew his request for a division on his amendment which would have allowed surrogacy in this case only. He said that calling a division at this stage might prejudice the enactment of “this important legislation”. Nobody knew what the outcome of the Budget votes would be and, if the House was dissolved, all the work that had been done would be lost.
In a statement issued later, the Labour Party said that this amendment would be included in the first set of Bills to be presented by the next Labour Government.
Dr Vella said he could not imagine a repetition of the discussion of such an emotive issue. During the second reading, 28 speakers from both sides – including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition – contributed to the debate. Committee stage took nearly 10 hours.
Earlier in yesterday’s debate, Health Minister Joseph Cassar moved an amendment which retained the number of eggs which may be implanted during IVF treatment at two, but which made an exception to allow the implantation of three eggs in exceptional cases, such as the age of the prospective mother.
The Bill was later unanimously approved in third reading.
In its statement the PL said it was through its cooperation that the Bill had been saved. The Government was in a panic state when it realised that the vote would have been taken on December 10 or later. This meant that, because of the uncertainty of the Budget vote, the Act would not have come into force this year.
The PL said it acted “in the best interests of those families who wished to use the IVF procedure”.
It noted that most of its amendments were take on board by the Government, in particular what it called the “Big Brother power” of the authority to decide who was eligible to undergo the IVF procedure or not.