VVD, D66 work on embryo research bill, but won’t put it to parliament

MPs from the ruling liberal parties VVD and D66 are working on new legislation which would make it possible to carry out more research on human embryos.

However, the legislation will not be presented to parliament until after the coming cabinet period to avoid potential confrontation with the two other Christian coalition parties, the two parties’ parliamentary leaders said in Monday’s Trouw.

VVD leader Sophie Hermans and D66’s Jan Paternotte say they want to use the coming period for a wider discussion on the issues with the general public. Embryo research is a controversial issue within Christian political circles, alongside abortion and euthanasia.

The two MPs want to make it possible to create embryos for some scientific research and to allow embryo selection, so that couples can eliminate the risk of their child passing on serious genetic diseases such as Huntingdon or Duchenne.

Currently parents can ask for a pre-implant genetic test on embryos created via IVF to see if the embryo itself has the illness, but not to see if there is a risk the embryo could pass it on to future generations.

The two MPs also hope to allow scientists to create embryos for research on improving the quality of IVF care and to increase the success ratings. ‘Our proposal is aimed at helping more people have a healthy child,’ Hermans told Trouw.

Current law

The current coalition agreement states that the parties may work on embryo-related legislation but that it should not be submitted to parliament.

Whether such legislation would be accepted by the next government will depend on the outcome of the next general election, currently scheduled for March 2025.

Dutch laws on embryo research in the Netherlands are currently much stricter than in many other EU countries, the two party leaders say. Currently, embryos can be used for research purposes if they are left over after fertility treatment but they cannot be created specifically for use in science.

Efforts to widen the scope of the legislation in 2016 were dropped by the previous coalition, despite national health council backing.

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