President tells pro-life groups she cannot stop IVF Bill

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca says the Constitution binds her to act on the advice of the government but refers concerns raised by pro-life groups on the in-vitro fertilisation Bill to the Deputy Prime Minister

President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca
President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca has referred constitutional concerns raised by pro-life groups over the IVF Bill pending in Parliament to the government.

But she also made it clear, in a letter (read attached file below) disseminated on Sunday night by her office, that she is constitutionally bound to act on the advice of the government and in the case of Bills approved by Parliament to assent “without delay”.

Coleiro Preca effectively shut down speculation that she may refuse to sign on the Bill after it is approved by Parliament. The speculation was fomented when she waded into the controversy last April, calling for more consultation despite the Bill having already been presented in Parliament.

MPs are expected to take the last vote on the IVF Bill, at Third Reading stage on Tuesday, after which it will become law when the President assents.

On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, who is piloting the Bill, said there was never an issue of the President not wanting to sign the law. Speaking on Sunday morning, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said government MPs will all support the IVF changes in Tuesday's vote.

Freezing of human embryos by choice is a threat to the very same human life Pro-life groups

Three pro-life groups – Life Network Foundation, Gift of Life and Malta Unborn Child Movement – requested an urgent meeting with the President on Saturday after the IVF Bill cleared the committee stage on Thursday. Coleiro Preca met representatives of the organisations on Sunday.

The pro-life groups raised the prospect that embryo freezing, which will become an integral part of the IVF treatment, is in breach of the right to life sanctioned by the Constitution.

“We are gravely concerned that as amended, the Embryo Protection Act will lead to a breach of our Constitution, as freezing of human embryos by choice is a threat to the very same human life. Safeguarding the right to life of the vulnerable is an absolute right,” the groups said.

They also said the selection process to choose which embryos are transferred to the woman’s womb and which are frozen had “eugenic implications”.

The groups urged the President to “intervene” before Tuesday’s final vote so that Parliament could “resolve” these issues before MPs vote.

The President told them that she was constitutionally bound to assent to a law once approved by Parliament but given the constitutional concerns raised, she referred the matter to Fearne.

“In the light of the serious content and submissions you raise in connection with the constitutionality of the said Bill, as guardian of the Constitution, I am duty bound to refer the matter to the said minister so that he can, on his part, seek and obtain advice from the Attorney General in order to be loyal to the oath of office when performing his ministerial duties in accordance with the Constitution of Malta,” Coleiro Preca said. 


More in National