Adrian Delia gives the lie to Bernard Grech: ‘I requested a free vote on IVF Bill in writing’

Bernard Grech pushes back, insists Delia's request for free vote came after internal discussions closed • More PN MPs break ranks on PGT

Bernard Grech says the PN will vote for embryo genetic testing but some of his MPs are openly contesting this stand
Bernard Grech says the PN will vote for embryo genetic testing but some of his MPs are openly contesting this stand

Updated at 1:21pm with PN spokesperson reaction

Adrian Delia says he wrote to Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech, requesting a free vote on the Bill that will introduce pre-implantation genetic testing of embryos.

When contacted, the former PN leader told MaltaToday that he had written to the party leader on the matter, contradicting what Grech told this news portal on Sunday.

“I wrote to Bernard Grech requesting that there be a free vote on the IVF Bill,” Delia said on Monday morning. He did not elaborate but the statement gives Grech the lie.

However, a party spokesperson has insisted that by the time the discussion on the IVF law in the parliamentary group came to an end, none of the MPs had requested a free vote. "Bernard Grech did receive a request for a free vote but only after the parliamentary group discussions ended," the spokesperson said.

READ ALSO: No MP requested free vote in 10 hours of talks within PN parliamentary group

Dissent grows

On Sunday, Grech said during an interview on the party station that the Opposition will vote for the IVF Bill in parliament when it comes up for the Third Reading, which is the last stage.

However, his predecessor wrote on Facebook that he disagreed with PGT. Delia wrote on Facebook: "I believe in life [and] I believe that the value of life is inalienable… A test on an unfertilised female egg would not put anyone's life in danger. Genetic testing on embryos would."

Delia’s comment was endorsed by veteran MP Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici and promptly followed by Gozitan MP Alex Borg, who also objected to PGT.

Subsequently, Grech reacted to Delia’s comments by saying that there are no plans for the PN to grant a free vote in the parliamentary sitting that will decide on amendments to Malta's IVF law.

Grech told MaltaToday that no one in the parliamentary group had requested to discuss a free vote on the law, nor to actually resort to a free vote in the Third Reading of the bill, during internal discussions on the issue.

"The parliamentary group's discussions, and the amendments accepted, led the Nationalist Party to its final position and to vote in favour," Grech said.

Sources within the party have said that other MPs apart from Delia also sent Grech an email requesting a free vote on the IVF Bill.

Meanwhile, the number of PN MPs publicly voicing their dissent continued to grow on Monday morning with Mosta-based MP, Ivan Bartolo, insisting that a law that allows genetic testing on embryos cannot be called an ‘Embryo Protection Act’.

“The politician is not God but has responsibility to be accountable to their own conscience, while carrying forward the loyalty of those who believed in them and elected them as their representatives,” Bartolo wrote.

The dissent openly expressed by some PN MPs rekindles situations from the recent past when morally-charged issues and others concerning civil rights led to splits within the party.

In 2011, the PN parliamentary group, then in government, split three-way when the divorce law was passed by parliament following a referendum. Some MPs, including then prime minister Lawrence Gonzi voted against, others abstained, while others voted for the introduction of divorce.

In 2014, then Opposition leader Simon Busuttil decided that the parliamentary group should abstain altogether on the vote that ushered in civil unions for gay couples to avoid another three-way split. Three years later when gay marriage was on the agenda, the PN voted in favour but Edwin Vassallo broke ranks and was the only MP to vote against.

In 2018, when the government was adopting the Istanbul Convention on gender-based violence, the PN under Adrian Delia had voted against because a previous reference to the unborn child was removed. However, Opposition MPs were given a free vote and eight PN MPs, and two independents, voted with the government.

READ ALSO: President who called embryo freezing ‘moral travesty’ could face test on PGT