Greens say President should be impeached for delaying IVF amendment law

ADPD chariman says lack of presidential assent ‘without delay’ is in breach of the Constitutional responsibilities of the President of the Republic

President of the Republic George Vella
President of the Republic George Vella

Green Party chairman Carmel Cacopardo has called President George Vella’s continued delay in assenting to amendments to Malta’s IVF rules, a breach of his constitutional responsibilities.

Cacopardo said ADPD are calling for the immediate impeachment of President George Vella after failing to give his assent to the IVF Bill approved by parliament earlier this month.

The Maltese Parliament approved the legislation of preimplantation genetic testing on embryos for inheritable diseases on 6 July. But Vella, a former Labour minister and medical practitioner who is opposed to IVF, has so far not yet assented to the Bill.

ADPD chairman Cacopardo today said the lack of presidential assent ‘without delay’ is in breach of the Constitutional responsibilities of the President of the Republic.

“Article 72 of the Constitution provides that ‘When a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall without delay signify that he assents.’ The bill has been on the President’s desk for many days and he has not given his Presidential assent. He should signify that he assents without delay. There are no ifs and buts.”

Earlier this week, the Government Gazette erroneously published a notification for the asset of the bill but retracted soon after. The Gazette publishes both an automatic notification for the Bill being placed before the President when an Act is approved by the House of Representatives, as well as the formal assent after it is signed by the President. But the process has been short-circuited so far by Vella’s unhurried pace.

Greens say Vella breaching constitutional responsibility by delaying IVF amendment law

“In statements made to the press over the past days it has been made amply clear that Dr George Vella is reluctant to assent to the approved IVF Bill,” Cacopardo said. “This is clearly unacceptable and runs counter to his Constitutional responsibilities as President of the Republic.

“A Green MP would by now have presented a motion for the impeachment of Dr George Vella and his removal from the office of President of the Republic for failing to shoulder his Constitutional responsibilities ‘without delay’. There are no Green MPs. Discriminatory electoral legislation is currently being contested in our law courts, an initiative of ADPD-The Green Party. Will anyone of the 79 Members of Parliament take the initiative?”

Vella could be expected to take a short break in the coming week so as to allow acting president Prof. Frank Bezzina to sign the Act in his stead.

After stepping down as an MP, in 2018, the former foreign minister dubbed Labour’s regularisation of embryo freezing “a complete travesty of morality”.

He recently told the press “the law will be signed” but refused to be drawn into any comment as to whether he will personally assent to the law.

Before his appointment as head of state, Vella had expressed serious reservations on the IVF law changes pushed by government in 2018. He had branded the IVF bill “a complete travesty of ethics, morality, and human dignity, allegedly to remove ‘discrimination’ imposed by nature herself”.

The bill made embryo freezing legal after it was outlawed back in 2012, and allowed egg and sperm donation, making treatment also accessible to single women and lesbians.

Vella had then questioned why government was going down a “slippery slope” to deliver “the utopic promise of equality”.

Vella, a medical doctor, disagrees with embryo freezing, and has said that were he to advise an infertile couple he would make them “understand that these are not capricious decisions, that they are decisions that need to be taken with a formed conscience with ethical and moral standards.”

Vella has also said allowing same-sex couples to adopt children via surrogacy was “not nature”, despite having as MP voted in favour of civil unions and gay adoption.

When in 2018 the Labour administration regularised embryo freezing, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said her assent to the Act was “out of loyalty towards the Constitution and the democratic process”, despite her moral objections.