The Bundestag is faced with an ethical decision: should it allow or ban pre-implantation diagnostics?? Prior to the decision, supporters and opponents of PGD promoted their positions in an objective and serious debate. The number of supporters of a PGD ban was recently about the same as that of those MPs who are in favor of allowing genetic testing of embryos in a few or more generous exceptional cases.
In this method, doctors examine embryos for genetic damage as part of artificial insemination. Several embryos are created; the healthiest ones are implanted into the womb, the possibly damaged ones are destroyed. Genetically predisposed couples hope to fulfill their wish to have children through PGD. Critics, on the other hand, see a sorting out of human life according to certain criteria.
Bishops speak of "selection
Not only the Catholic bishops, but also many members of parliament as well as the former trial judge Ernst-Wolfgang Bockenforde openly speak of "selection. This is also the reason why all three of the bills on the table call for a ban in principle. But then two want to allow the method with different scope. The delegates want to take three hours to weigh up the pros and cons before making their decision.
PGD was considered banned until last July. Then the Federal Court of Justice surprisingly decided that this does not generally apply.
Majority not in favor until last
This puts the onus on the legislature. The three legislative initiatives are not based on factional boundaries, but are supported by groups, since a decision of this scope should be left to the conscience of the individual. Of the total of 621 MPs, 172 have not yet made up their minds. A majority is not yet in sight.
Advocates of a strict ban: not compatible with the Christian conception of humanity
The representatives of a strict ban around the members of parliament Johannes Singhammer (CSU) and Katrin Goring-Eckhardt (Greens) were able to find almost 200 supporters for their proposal. For them, PGD is neither compatible with the Christian conception of man nor with the conception of humanity. The parents' wish is understandable, but it does not entitle them to decide on the right to life of others, they argue. Zulang would be a paradigm shift in the German understanding of the law. They also claim that the method is successful in only about 15 percent of cases – with no guarantee of a healthy child. The vast majority of couples are therefore threatened with deep disappointment after all the hardships. In addition, it is not clear what should be done with the surplus embryos.
With more than 200 supporters, the group of MPs Peter Hintze (CDU) and Ulrike Flach (FDP) is in the lead. It wants to allow the method for couples who are "highly likely" to inherit a serious disease. In addition, PGD is to be permitted for the purpose of determining serious damage to the embryo "which is highly likely to result in a stillbirth or miscarriage".
Critics already see this as an opening toward "screening" – that is, an examination that becomes standard and is not limited to the estimated 200 couples per year.
The group of deputies around Rene Rospel (SPD), Norbert Lammert (CDU) and Priska Hinz (Greens), on the other hand, want to allow diagnostics only for parents whose offspring, due to a genetic disposition, "is likely to cause damage to the embryo, fetus or child", which in turn is likely to "lead to stillbirth or miscarriage". This motion has so far received 36 supporters.
Form of the vote
Due to the close vote, the form of the vote could be a deciding factor. The parliament first votes on the voting procedure. The plan is for MPs to cast their vote in writing for one of the three proposals. If none of the proposals contains an absolute majority, the proposal with the fewest votes is dropped in the second vote. Then only two draft laws will be voted on.
The decision is considered trend-setting far beyond Germany. Some neighboring countries allow PGD, others ban it. But Germany is seen by many as a point of reference.
Judges urged a clear legal regulation
Bundestag vote on preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) comes almost a year to the day after the Federal Supreme Court (BGH) ruling that triggered the political debate on new regulations. On 6. July 2010, the BGH ruled that genetic testing of embryos after artificial insemination is not punishable in certain cases. The BGH thus confirmed a ruling of the Berlin Regional Court. It had acquitted the Berlin gynecologist Matthias Bloechle, who had turned himself in after the completion of several genetic tests.
The 5. Senate of the BGH ruled that the doctor had performed PGD with the intention of bringing about a pregnancy. In addition, he performed PGD on pluripotent cells, which can no longer give rise to a complete organism. "PGD does not run counter to the purpose pursued by the law of protecting embryos from abuse," judges say. They pointed out that PGD had only been developed abroad when the Embryo Protection Act was passed in 1990. A prohibition of such a PGD can be compared to the "appreciable will of the historical legislator" … do not extract them," the BGH ruled.
However, the ruling also states that PGD cannot be used for "unlimited selection on the basis of genetic characteristics". It must be about an examination for "serious genetic damage". PGD to select the sex of the child, for example, would still be punishable by law. The judges called for a clear legal regulation.