The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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Abortion bill reform: Option of a free vote essentially ruled out by both parties

Marc Galdes Monday, 5 December 2022, 08:10 Last update: about 3 months ago

Both major political parties have essentially ruled out the option of a free vote for the abortion bill reform.

The Malta Independent spoke to Nationalist Party (PN) Whip Robert Cutajar and Labour Party (PL) Whip Andy Ellul, about whether a free vote should be considered and whether this option has been discussed at parliamentary group level.

Cutajar said that there is no need for a free vote as the party is “unanimously against” the bill.

“We have made our position very clear; we are going to vote against it,” he said.

“We are in favour of life, from the moment of conception until the natural end,” he added.

Cutajar said that the matter of a free vote was never brought up at a parliamentary group level, as all members agreed to vote against the proposed bill.

Ellul replied to the questions through his office.

Ellul initially clarified that there was no abortion bill amendment, instead, it was “an amendment to the Criminal Code where the articles prohibiting abortion will remain as it is, but there is a sub-article which will be introduced where no offence under article 241(2) or Article 243 will be committed when the termination of a pregnancy results from a medical intervention aimed at protecting the health of a pregnant woman suffering from a medical complication which may put her life at risk or her health in grave jeopardy.”

“The amendment was discussed both during Cabinet and Parliamentary group meetings, and it reflects the position of the parliamentary group,” Ellul replied.

Ex-PL Minister Evarist Bartolo was also asked whether there should be a free vote in parliament.

“Have a look at the electoral manifesto and campaign of the party in government. If there is a mandate for such an amendment, there should not be a free vote,” he replied.

He then referenced proposal 506 from the electoral manifesto that mentions reproductive rights.

The proposal said, “This policy should reflect the realities of today when it comes to health and sexual and reproductive rights.”

At the time the pro-life NGO Doctors for Life had raised red flags over the phrase “reproductive rights” and had asked Prime Minister Robert Abela to clarify what it meant by this and whether it included abortion.

During the electoral debate at the University of Malta, Abela had said that abortion was not on the party’s manifesto, however, he said that this was an ongoing debate which would not be stopped.

He mentioned the case of Marion Mifsud Mora who was forced to give birth to a dead foetus in September 2019, even though she had an infection which put her life at risk.

“Our laws aren’t clear on what interventions can happen when the mother has pregnancy difficulties or when her life is at stake. The law needs to be clear,” Abela said.

“A doctor should be able to operate on a woman when her life is at stake,” Abela added.

Bartolo also pointed out how in the electoral manifesto, “proposals 494 - 505 all deal with mental health being considered as important as physical health for the wellbeing of everyone”.

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