Updated | Abortion amendment heads to committee stage as parliament votes in favour

All Nationalist MPs voted against the bill, but the Labour Party’s majority means the bill was passed with 42 votes to 34 • Two Labour MPs receive threatening letters during session

An amendment to the criminal code to allow for abortions when the woman’s life and health is at stake has passed to the committee stage in parliament.

The bill passed with all 42 Labour MPs voting in favour and 34 Nationalist MPs voting against.

Earlier, the Nationalist Party issued a statement declaring that all its MPs will be voting against the amendment.

“All the Nationalist MPs are united behind one message against the introduction of abortion in the country, and participated actively and consistently in the parliamentary discussions,” the party statement read.

The Labour government's bill was the subject of heated debate in recent weeks. An anti-abortion march in Valletta attracted thousands of people, including Nationalist Party politicians, members of the clergy, and other personalities like River of Love pastor Gordon Manche. 

The main concern, as brought up by a group of academics, was that the definition of 'health' in the bill was too wide and would include mental health as grounds for abortion. 

This was shot down by Health Minister Chris Fearne and Abela himself, who both argued that the health of the mother should be a priority in the amendment. 

Now, the bill will be discussed in parliament’s Consideration of Bills committee, where the amendment will be discussed in more legal detail.

READ ALSO: Government should withdraw abortion amendment, Bernard Grech says

Labour MPs Randolph De Battista and Rebecca Buttigieg received anonymous and threatening letters during the session. They notified the Speaker and requested protection. Buttigieg said she will be filing a report with police on the matter.

The two MPs were targeted in these letters over their support of the abortion amendment.

The Speaker of the House said he will be referring the matter to the authorities too. PN whip Robert Cutajar added that the Nationalist Party condemns “any personal attacks towards our colleagues”.

Nationalist Party 'vows to fight for life'

After the vote was taken, the Nationalist Party issued a statement accusing Robert Abela of seeking to introduce abortion in Malta. 

"The Nationalist Party will be insisting that as many people, organisations and professionals as possible participate in the Committee's meeting, in the hope that parliament will not approve the introduction of abortion in our country, Robert Abela wants."

"The Nationalist Party continues to encourage the Maltese and Gozitan people to raise their voice against the introduction of abortion in our country and to insist that its representatives in parliament do not introduce laws that the people did not give any mandate on in the last general election and that go against the value of life."