The introduction of embryo freezing and adoption, access to IVF for same-sex couples and single persons, as well as a public consultation on surrogacy are the highlights of a new IVF bill presented this afternoon, by Health Minister Chris Fearne.
Addressing a news conference at Parliament, the deputy prime minister said the bill had been unanimously approved by the Labour Party.
He said that until the final few months of the Gonzi administration in 2012, there was no regulation of IVF.
“The 2012 law was a good move, but time is ripe to move further ahead,” he said.
He explained that between 18 to 20 per cent of couples faced infertility problems.
Under this bill IVF will be also be offered to same sex couples as well as single women.
“Government feels that denial of access on the grounds of sexual orientation is discriminatory,” he said. There was ample scientific evidence, he insisted, that there are no negative effects on children who either had single parents by choice or same-sex parents.
Another change will see a rise in the maximum age of women eligible for IVF to 48 years from 43. However, in case of women who are over 43, only donated ova from younger persons will be allowed.
The government is also proposing that in order to avoid risks associated with triplets, only two embryos in every cycle will be allowed. The rest will be frozen for future cycles and if the woman reaches 43 years, they will be given up for adoption. He insisted that government believed in the full dignity of embryos and was against abortion.
However, the minister acknowledged that embryo adoption will open up a “remote possibility” that in future two persons in a relationship may be part of the same generic pool (brothers or sisters) without their knowledge. According to the minister this risk is not higher than at present.
It was also announced that consultation would be launched on “altruistic surrogacy”. At present surrogacy (a woman carrying somebody else's baby in her womb) carries up to three years imprisonment and up to EUR15,000 fine. Surrogacy for money will remain illegal. The minister expressed himself in favour of “altruistic surrogacy”.
The bill was given a first reading by Parliament on Wednesday afternoon and is expected to be published later this week.