European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis believes that Lithuania should keep in place the current Law on Assisted Reproduction that does not limit the number of embryos that can be created a time and allows freezing them.
Vytenis Andriukaitis
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

The Lithuanian commissioner thinks that in a secular state "technologies based on scientific openness and progress cannot be replaced with principles and attitudes based on worldviews, because the principle of non-discrimination has to widely open opportunities for all accessible progress," Andriukaitis told reporters after meeting with Agnė Širinškienė, head of the Seimas' Committee on Health.

"The adopted law is a balanced one. I don't know if the amendments are. The national legislature has to discuss, but I believe that we must listen to specialists, because 50,000 families may be affected due to disputes that can be dealt with at theology or philosophy conferences," he said.

Fifty-seven lawmakers have registered amendments to the Law on Assisted Reproduction, which is due to come into force next January, proposing to return to the conservative regulation that limited the number of embryos created during in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.

The initiators include Sirinskiene and Health Minister-Designate Aurelijus Veryga, both delegated to their posts by the ruling Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LPGU).

Obstetricians and gynecologists are calling on the Seimas to allow the law in its current form to take effect, saying that the proposed conservative amendments will cause problems for infertile couples. About 30 non-governmental organizations representing patients have also backed this position in an open letter.

The EU commissioner agrees that the existing law "provides a significantly larger number of families with access to modern (assisted reproduction) technologies."

The chairwoman of the Committee on Health underlines that the Law on Assisted Reproduction, with or without new amendments, will come into force in January, as planned, and that IVF procedures will be funded by the state.

Širinskienė says that egg freezing, which is proposed by the amendments, is a sufficiently effective alternative to embryo freezing.

The Seimas last June passed a law that would have limited the number of embryos that can be created in an IVF procedure to the number intended to be implanted into a woman's womb at a time, but no more than three. Supporters of the conservative regulation said that they wanted to prevent the disposal of unused frozen embryos.

President Dalia Grybauskaitė then vetoed the law, saying that the requirement to implant all embryos into a woman's womb increases the risk of a multiple gestation pregnancy and reduces the probability of success in IVF treatments. In her words, this poses a health hazard for both the woman and the child.

The Lithuanian parliament in September upheld the presidential veto.

The Law on Assisted Reproduction, in its current form, does not limit the number of embryos that can be created at a time and allows sperm or eggs donation and pre-implantation embryo screening.

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