The Swiss Evangelical People’s Party (EVP/PEV) has launched an initiative to counter the law on reproductive medicine, which allows all embryos fertilised outside the uterus (in-vitro) to be genetically tested.
Under the law, the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) on foetuses in-vitro is possible for carriers of genetically inherited disorders and for patients undergoing regular fertility treatment (IVF).
Discriminating against those with disabilities
Although it would be illegal to test an embryo for its eye and hair colour, or its sex, the initiative’s founders say that it is only a matter of time until the scope is extended to include physical traits.
“Only the best, most beautiful, strongest and flawless embryos will be given a chance. The way we regard human life and the position we take as a society is at stake here. We are against this selective mindset and delusional sense of optimisation. It stigmatises people with disabilities as leading lives not worth living or being viewed as preventable risks,” said EVP’s spokesperson Dirk Meisel to Le News.
Genetic screening in exceptional cases only
The committees within the ‘No to a law on reproductive medicine without limits’ initiative include civil groups and representatives from all parties. They say that preimplantation genetic diagnosis should only be used in exceptional cases, yet to be specified.
Those in favour of the law argue that allowing IVF patients early genetic screening, could prevent miscarriages which are common among this group.
A more humane option
In a debate on SRF, Federal Councillor Alain Berset pointed out that in Switzerland today, the earliest possibility to screen an embryo for potential disorders is 12 weeks into the pregnancy. He said that giving IVF patients an additional option before pregnancy begins, is more humane.
Keeping IVF patients in Switzerland
Currently, Swiss-based patients desiring genetic tests are often treated elsewhere in Europe where the procedure is widely legal.
The law proposes that a maximum of 12 embryos are developed, retained and frozen for a period of 10 years per treatment. Opponents say the embryo surplus is too high.
The federal council and parliament are in favour of this amendment.
The referendum vote is on June 5th.
By Jade Cano
Jade is a freelance journalist and lives in Geneva. Originally from Colombia, she has lived in the UK and Germany.