Congratulations to Family Minister Michael Falzon for introducing grants to childless couples who decide to adopt children from abroad to solve their infertility problem.

The government  has now shown there are alternatives to embryo freezing. Unwisely, the government had initially decided to promote only IVF and embryo freezing to help childless couples have children.   

Falzon announced the government would be giving €10,000 to childless couples “to cover the costs involving research, acquiring documentation, legal fees, interpreters, flights and accommodation” connected with adoptions of children from abroad.

The Malta Unborn Child Movement recently advocated  the granting of subsidies  to Maltese childless couples to adopt children locally, or from abroad, instead of resorting to embryo freezing.

The adoption of children from Russia had stopped abruptly a few years ago when the government passed legislation which the Russian government had considered not to be “in the best interests” of Russian children.

Hopefully the initiative will now boost the prospects of Maltese childless couples.

The government should now go a step further and adopt another very positive approach, proposed also by  the Malta Unborn Child Movement (MUCM) to Minister of Health Chris Fearne.

MUCM also sent the minister a draft clause for inclusion in the new amendments to the Embryo Protection Law of 2012.

MUCM is proposing that the government should set up a consultative committee, as that set up by the Healthy Lifestyle Law of 2016,  and a corresponding fund, to help and subsidise childless couples who, again, opt not to go for IVF and embryo freezing but choose the natural method to fertility.

This by seeking the counselling services of nutritionists, dietitians and psychologists, among others, to become pregnant. 

These professionals normally help childless couples to reduce stress in their lives connected with today’s ever-growing work pressures, which greatly affect fertility, to make lifestyle changes, to eat proper diets and to take nutritional supplements which, again, science is increasingly showing, help infertile couples conceive their own children, in a much less costly and painful manner, and much more quickly than IVF and embryo freezing.

MUCM is already doing all this.   

This newspaper should again be congratulated for its feature ‘Lifestyle changes may increase chances of pregnancy’ (May 15) which, first, made reference to a study linking infertility to dietary habits, and then interviewed gynaecologist Mark Formosa about the  work which needs to be done on lifestyle education to guide women wishing to have children.

These initiatives by the government will help childless couples avoid the “stress, strain and suffering” involved in the IVF process.

They also avoid the possible involuntary death of so many embryos, unborn children in the very beginning of human life, through the thawing process connected with embryo freezing.

This is a very good example of the commodification of human life at its very beginning

They avoid  the inhumanity of freezing embryos and the unethical choosing between good and not-so-good embryos, which renders them a commodity. They avoid the callousness of discarding, or throwing  away, frozen embryos which are not needed.

They also avoid the highly impersonal anonymous adoption of unwanted embryos. Children born without an identity.

In February 2000, Bernard Nathanson, a gynaecologist of world fame, testified before the US Congress on reproductive technologies. He said: “There is a very large market in frozen embryos. There are about 50,000 embryos in various cryobanks across the country. What are we to do? Freezing can only preserve an embryo five or six years. Some entrepreneurs have the answer: sell them.”

One enterprising reporter showed that if you go to Colombia University you can tell them what kind of baby you want, matching your physique, your ethnic background and educational background, and they will pick out a frozen embryo that perfectly matches what you want and sell it to you and implant the embryo in the womb of your wife or girlfriend for all of $2,750. 

This is a very good example of the commodification of human life at its very beginning. It resembles the sale of slaves on the market of bygone years, also in Malta.

It is not “progressive” at all.

In his article ‘Legislators’ responsibility’ (May 23) Martin Scicluna tried to patronise Maltese legislators into passing all the amendments to the Embryo Protections Act as initially proposed by the government.

Although Scicluna did suggest that “IVF treatment (should be) sensibly regulated”, he did not say how at all. 

Instead, he shouted that our “legislators should shut out the noise which has been generated by a well-organised group of social conservatives, who have based their opposition to the new legislation on a range of  issues centred round the so-called recognition of ‘the rights of the unborn child’ from the moment of conception.”

He has again made it very  clear that to him, embryos, unborn children, have no rights at all. He also forgot that the word embryo, which means human life at its very beginning, still shows in  the name of the amended law. 

Again, Scicluna battered all pro-life organisations and institutions who constructively criticised the amendments.

He did not say that these have always declared that they, also, want to help childless couples have children.

Scicluna  made no mention of the latest government offer of financial grants to Maltese childless couples to adopt children from abroad. He must have known about this offer from the government. Surely, he could have added a last-minute sentence or two to his article about these grants to childless couples before publication. Last month, the government voted in Parliament in favour of the principles behind the proposed amendments to the Embryo Protection Act.

The controversial amendments will now be considered in detail in committee stage. 

Considering the willingness shown by the government, first to extend the consultation period, then to offer financial grants to childless couples to adopt children mostly from abroad, the committee stage is where the government, especially  the Family Minister, can and should consider seriously, again, helping in different ways childless couples who opt to use the natural method to fertility.

Gynaecologist Mark Formosa, who has already commented favourably on the natural method to fertility and has shown what should be done next, should be called by the government, especially by the Family Minister, along with other professionals like those who have already worked with MUCM on this matter, to extend further salutary services to childless couples to have children of their own without resorting to other very risky, costly and stressful measures.

Tony Mifsud is coordinator, Malta Unborn Child Movement.

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