[WATCH] Just days after Xarabank, Bernard Grech flip-flops on abortion referendum

Nationalist Party leadership candidate Bernard Grech goes from respecting a referendum result on abortion to resigning, as he adopts Adrian Delia’s dogmatic approach following internal flak

Bernard Grech's two faces: On F Living (left) the PN leadership contender pandered to the conservative base by changing tack on his position on an abortion referendum a few days earlier on Xarabank (right)
Bernard Grech's two faces: On F Living (left) the PN leadership contender pandered to the conservative base by changing tack on his position on an abortion referendum a few days earlier on Xarabank (right)

Bernard Grech has flip-flopped on how he will act as prime minister if a referendum delivers a result in favour of legalising abortion.

The Nationalist Party leadership contender had told a Xarabank audience last week that if he were prime minister and people chose to legalise abortion in a referendum, he would respect the outcome.

His response was different from rival contender Adrian Delia’s dogmatic response that he would still vote against abortion irrespective of a referendum outcome.

“If I am prime minister, I think, no I am convinced that I am obliged to follow the decision taken by the Maltese people,” Grech replied on Xarabank.

He earlier said that if were just an MP and given a free vote on the matter, he would vote according to his conscience.

However, a few days later on F Living, Grech insisted that he would resign from prime minister if an abortion referendum passed so as not to be party to legislation passed through parliament.

“If I am party leader I will work against the introduction of abortion… and if I am prime minister, I have no problem if a referendum on abortion delivers a Yes result, I am ready to resign so as not to be the one who introduced abortion in the country,” Grech replied.

His response in the F Living interview just a handful of days after the more nuanced approach on Xarabank, was a return to the dogmatic approach adopted by Delia.

Grech has always been clear that he is personally opposed to abortion. But had surprised many with his moderate reply during a Church radio interview early on in August that he could not ignore a debate on the subject if this was happening in society.

The Xarabank response was Grech’s attempt at distancing himself from what former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi had done in 2011 when he had voted against divorce legislation in parliament despite the people’s choice in a referendum which he had called.

PN sources told MaltaToday that Grech faced internal flak over what was perceived as his “soft approach” on abortion by the elderly membership base that will determine the leadership race.

“Under pressure, Bernard Grech changed his position on the subject when interviewed on F Living despite having extolled the importance of the referendum as a democratic tool on Xarabank a few days earlier,” the sources said.

Grech’s initial replies on the subject were troubling for a largely conservative base and contrasted deeply with Delia’s unequivocal stand that he would oppose the introduction of abortion by all means.

The PN statute makes it clear that the party is against abortion, which makes the debate a moot point. And yet, it remains a troubling subject for the party and the country at large.

Over the past year there has been a push within civil society for the legalisation of abortion with a coalition of women’s rights groups and a group of doctors calling themselves Doctors for Choice being vocal about the subject. The organisations argue that women should be given the choice to undergo an abortion in what is the first organised public manifestation of pro-choice voices in Malta.

However, two MaltaToday surveys carried out in 2018 and 2019 found that a vast majority of people are opposed to abortion. A breakdown of the results also showed that opposition to abortion was strong in all circumstances.

READ ALSO: Check out MaltaToday's 2019 abortion survey results