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VALLETTA, Malta, September 11, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life leaders in the tiny island republic of Malta fear that party politics may soon bring about the relaxation of restrictions on in vitro fertilization and the undermining of the toughest anti-abortion laws in Europe.

While an advisory committee to Parliament still ponders its recommendations, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat appears to have pre-empted their work in a weekend media interview revealing in detail the legislative changes he anticipates pushing through. These  include the freezing of up to four embryos and the expansion of the law to permit single women and same-sex couples to get IVF.

But the freezing and often destruction of surplus embryos amounts to “treating the embryo as a commodity [that] severely devalues human life deserving of the utmost respect from conception,” declared the Gift of Life Foundation. “The Prime Minister is thus knowingly hastening what can only be a natural consequence, the legalization of abortion,” it added.

The head of the Life Network, Klaus Vella Bardon, agreed: “The freezing of embryos and their subsequent disposal after a number of years is no more than another form of abortion – this time carried out outside the womb.”

The existing restrictive law, called the Embryo Protection Act, was passed by a conservative government in 2012. It allowed only two eggs to be frozen and no embryos – and only for heterosexual couples.

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But  Malta's since-elected Labour Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says he is pro-life but has also always supported embryo-freezing as the “commonsense” approach to most efficiently and cheaply bring about IVF, with the least hardship for the mother. He recently appeared in a panel discussion alongside a Catholic theologian who declared that embryo-freezing is not immoral, though destroying the frozen embryos is. The Catholic Church teaches otherwise.

The low success rate of IVF explains the desire for extra embryos, but over the years of debate, advances in IVF technology have provided a moral alternative to embryo-freezing: freezing of the unfertilized eggs instead. “Its success rate is better than with frozen embryos,” Vincenti said. “It is cutting edge.”

But Muscat – with the support of some IVF practitioners – wants embryo-freezing, too. Vincenti told LifeSiteNews that this may be because it is more convenient for lesbians and single women, who under current restrictions must find a fresh male donor for each attempt at fertilization, something that is not a problem for opposite-sex couples.

“I'm afraid Muscat has to repay gay rights groups for their support during the last election,” said Vincenti, “and also repay IVF companies who make bags of money each time they freeze another embryo, and who supported his campaign financially.”

More is at stake than fertility for opponents of embryo-freezing. Having several embryos “banked” in the freezer treats children like commodities and makes the parents' “choice” all-important, says Vincenti. If prospective parents can chose to thaw an embryo or not, they can choose to abort or not.

Vella Bardon agrees. “There is no mention of the best interests of the child born of donor egg and donor sperm technologies. This is a grave injustice to the child who, with no vote and defenseless, will be orphaned at conception.”

Muscat has said that the new law would allow surplus embryos to be adopted, but Maltese pro-lifers respond that few people want to adopt someone else's embryo.

As the advisory committee reaches its conclusion and Muscat stirs the pot by pre-empting those recommendations, a new pro-abortion group has formed – Pro-Choice Malta – to revive the call to relax Malta's no-abortion stance.

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