In my social work training we were taught that it is our duty to be the voice of the voiceless and to advocate for the most vulnerable. In our post-truth society many present alternative facts or populist beliefs. Sadly this rhetoric might win elections or increase readerships but it does nothing to help the voiceless or the vulnerable. We need committed individuals and NGOs advocating for them supported by policies that clearly outline who needs to be protected and strong legislation to help ensure protection for these individuals.
When discussing IVF or embryo freezing we need to remember this is a difficult human experience for people who wish to have a child and for whatever reason have not yet managed to do so. I have friends who experienced this and I understand the pain it causes. The motivation behind fertility treatments is for couples to build a family and love a child of their own. I disagree with anyone who challenges such a noble desire.
However, the story is also about an embryo at the beginning of her or his human journey. My training always taught me that in situations where there is a clash of rights between different individuals, we need to advocate for the more vulnerable and the one who has least of a voice.
In this case the embryo is certainly the voiceless party. I firmly believe it is the responsibility of our society to protect the embryo and the Law needs to help ensure this. Unfortunately the proposed changes to the current law does exactly the opposite. It creates new orphans, discriminates between children born to their natural parents and those born through embryo adoption; it opens the door to wombs being used as incubators for rent. This is not an emotional appeal as some may claim but a human one.
If we advocate for embryo adoption we are rubber stamping a new age of orphans. Incidentally, I am surprised how this Law is being discussed before concluding the much awaited Child Protection Act which has been in Parliament for what feels like forever. The new Child Protection Act will facilitate adoptions for children whose parents are unable or unwilling to care for them. This gives the opportunity for people who wish to adopt to do so without going through the hugely lengthy and expensive process of adopting from abroad.
Embryo adoption seems like a poor attempt to appease the criticism of embryos being ‘flushed away’ when not used. Regulation in this field is welcome and all possible support should be given to couples in a stable relationship, regardless of sexual orientation, to become parents. However this should not be to the detriment of the unborn child. Some writers and commentators quote that Malta is one of the few countries where abortion is illegal and where we are too careful will ethical issues. These opinionists often compare us to other EU countries. My appeal is to stop being lemmings of other countries in such issues and to be leaders by showing that Malta is a safe haven for the unborn child and we are proud of our ethical stand to protect the vulnerable.
I invite all our readers to attend the “Manifestazzjoni favur il-Ħajja” on Sunday 22 April at 4pm in front of Castille, Valletta. A quote attributed to Mahatma Ghandi sums up the whole issue: The greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.
Let’s make our voice count.
Andrew, a safeguarding specialist, is Head of the Safeguarding Commission and Director of Kummissjoni Ejjew Għandi