[WATCH] PN's IVF leave motion defeated after Busuttil and MPs stay away from vote

Final vote: 37 against, 21 in favour, with six PN MPs who disagreed with motion absent for vote after leader Adrian Delia refused to give free vote • Democratic Party MPs opposed the PN motion

PN's IVF leave motion defeated: 37 against, 21 in favour
PN's IVF leave motion defeated: 37 against, 21 in favour
Adrian Delia's motion did not have the support of his own MPs: Simon Busuttil (right) was absent for the vote
Adrian Delia's motion did not have the support of his own MPs: Simon Busuttil (right) was absent for the vote

What happened at the debate:

  • PN leader did not grant his MPs a free vote
  • Simon Busuttil, Mario de Marco, Karol Aquilina, Karl Gouder, Therese Comodini Cachia and Chris Said absent for vote
  • Godfrey Farrugia voted against and declared that absent Marlene Farrugia would have voted likewise
  • Edwin Vassallo agreed with free vote option
  • Chris Fearne said motion was discriminatory
  • Joseph Muscat said PN wanted to deny IVF to same-sex couples

An Opposition motion to cancel the government's IVF leave legal notice was defeated in parliament today, after a division called by Democratic Party MP Godfrey Farrugia resulted in 37 votes against to 21 votes in favour. 

This was despite the Opposition's argument that the motion to cancel the IVF leave legal notice was legalistic in nature, and that they were asking for an amendment to the 2012 Embryo Protection Act if the definition of prospective 'parents' were to be different in the legal notice than in the 2012 act.

Six PN MPs who disagreed with the motion were absent for the vote.

Asked about the Nationalist MPs who abstained from voting, Opposition leader Adrian Delia said that the PN had within it different opinions, and the challenge was to respect the different opinions. However there were moral principles which brought the particle together. Some of his MPs had informed him that they did not agree with the motion, and they had in fact not voted against the motion, and thus in favour of the government, but had abstained as the IVF issue was one which was close to their heart.

Delia had reiterated today during the parliamentary discussion  that the IVF legal notice had a definition within it on ‘prospective parents’ which was not in agreement with the definition found in the Embryo Protection Act of 2012.

The Opposition was not saying it agreed or did not agree with the definition, nor did it say it did not agree that such persons should not be given IVF leave.

What the PN was trying to do, he emphasised, was to have a definition which made sense and which was coherent with the other definition of 'prospective parents' as found in the principle law, on protection of the embryo.

The principle law first had to be amended if the legal notice was to go forward, he said, as commotion erupted on the government side, which did not agree with Delia's legalistic argument.

If the government was ready to change the definition found in the embryo act, then the Opposition would withdraw the motion, he maintained, without giving any indication that he would be granting a free vote to his MPs on the motion.

Deputy leader Chris Fearne, speaking after Delia, said that government had a mandate to change the 2012 IVF act definitions, and would be in fact doing so. However it would be voting against the Opposition's motion, he maintained, as this only served to perpetuate the discrimination found in the 2012 act.

Addressing parliament, Democratic Party MP Godfrey Farrugia asked those present what was wrong in giving the opportunity to those who could not otherwise procreate, to do so, especially when the scientific means for this existed.

Farrugia said that he did not agree with putting people into categories, and would thus be voting against the motion being brought forward by the Opposition.

MP Edwin Vassallo said that the government had turned the issue into a political game. The government had two positions on IVF, due to the two different definitions, and it was this which the opposition wanted to be clarified.

The motion was also brought forward because the government was not being clear, he said.

However, when it came issues of conscience or morality, a free vote should be granted, he maintained, as this was the only way to uphold freedom of belief.

PN parliamentary affairs deputy leader David Agius said he had hoped that the government would today have explained why the definition of ‘prospective parents’ in the 2012 act was different from that in the legal notice, but it had failed to explain this.

It had also not explained why it did not draft a new law, but instead had come forward with a legal notice, he said.

Equality minister Helena Dalli, in turn, said that the new definition in the legal notice was, amongst other things, meant to reflect technological advancements.

She said that she had expected the leader of the Opposition to bring forth a motion, or a private member’s bill, to amend the 2012 IVF law, so as to strengthen it, and not to instead bring forward a motion to block the legal notice.

The 2012 act had left a lot to be desired, Dalli said, and left out same sex couples who might want to make us of IVF treatment. This legal notice vindicated them.

In his address, the Prime Minister said the Opposition still did not know if it agreed or disagreed with its own motion.

The legal notice ensured that anybody, of any orientation and without any discrimination, would be able to undergo IVF treatment.

The motion was meant to cancel the legal notice, he said, and no matter what the Opposition said, the aim of the motion was to deny IVF to same-sex couples, he said.

"It is yesterday's style of politics which tries to intrude on people's sexual orientation," he maintained, adding that the government wanted to ensure as many people as possible had access to it, and that any parents who wanted to could make use of it.

There are at least six Nationalist MPs opposed to their party's own motion on IVF leave and willing to vote against, MaltaToday is informed.

A PN MP, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the parliamentary group had been still undecided as to what could happen ahead of the debate, which started at 6:30pm.

"This motion does not make sense and simply reinforces the perception that we are a party opposed to the gay community and infertile women," he said, adding that Delia had so far resisted calls to grant a free vote on the matter.

The situation had left the PN parliamentary group in disarray. "We have to wait for Adrian Delia's speech at 6.30pm to know what will happen," another MP had told MaltaToday.

READ MORE: The ruckus on IVF leave is complex. So are the PN’s reasons

An emergency parliamentary group meeting took place at 7pm, at the same time the debate was under way, resulting in none but two Nationalist MPs being in the room at one point during the debate.

The motion sought to cancel a legal notice introduced before the summer that granted women leave entitlement for IVF treatment. The PN’s motion was filed last month by David Agius and Stephen Spiteri on the day Delia was sworn in as MP. Sources said Edwin Vassallo has been the main promoter of the motion.

PN MP Therese Comodini Cachia was the only one to publicly declare her opposition to the motion, insisting she could not vote against her conscience.

Earlier today, PN candidate and NET TV presenter Norman Vella also voiced his disagreement with the motion.

The six dissenters

In a statement released shortly after the vote was taken, PN MPs Simon Busuttil, Mario de Marco, Karol Aquilina, Therese Comdini Cachia, Karl Gouder and Chris Said said they absented themselves from the vote because they disagreed in principle with the motion.

They said their position within the party had been known for "several weeks" and asked to be given a free vote but this was "sadly" not accepted. The six said they did not feel comfortable voting with the government side and so chose to stay away from the vote.

"In these circumstances, we think the best path to take is one which respects our opinion that this motion runs counter to the principles in which we believe while at the same time respect the decision of the majority of the parliamentary group who felt that this motion should be presented. We believe the best way is that we do not participate in the vote called this evening by the Opposition," the six MPs said.

They said that everyone deserved the highest respect and social justice demanded that no one be refused the benefit of leave, especially when couples were faced with such difficult times.

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