Impeach President Vella over reluctance to sign IVF bill, say Greens

The president should be impeached for failing to sign a controversial reform of IVF rules into law, according to the head of the Green party.

In a blog post, ADPD chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said that had a Green electoral candidate been elected to parliament they would have already presented a motion for President George Vella’s impeachment.  

He was reacting to news that amendments to the IVF law, which open the door for embryo testing, have not yet been signed by President Vella.

Vella is understood to be uncomfortable with the reform, which will allow medical professionals to screen embryos for a limited number of genetic conditions.  

Sources said the delay, now more than two weeks since the amendments were approved in parliament, is starting to make government members anxious.    

Until the law is signed the reform cannot be implemented. 

Questions sent to the office of the president earlier this week have remained unanswered.  

While such delays have been experienced before, sources said they were growing concerned that Vella would not sign the reform and instead leave it to his stand-in – academic Frank Bezzina – to sign when he is next overseas. 

Vella is understood to be travelling out of the country in August.  

‘Constitution is clear’

Writing on his blog, Cacopardo noted that Article 72 of the Constitution states, “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.

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This lack of Presidential assent “without delay” is in breach of the Constitutional responsibilities of the President of the Republic,” Cacopardo wrote. 

He said that a Green MP would have already presented a motion for the impeachment of President Vella for “failing to shoulder his Constitutional responsibilities”.

Cacopardo lamented that however there are no Green MPs, citing “discriminatory electoral legislation” which the party is challenging in court.  

“Will any one of the 79 Members of Parliament take the initiative?” he asked. 

A flagship IVF reform

The IVF reform was a flagship proposal of the Labour Party during the March election campaign, with Prime Minister Robert Abela promising to deliver it within 100 days of being returned to office.  

The new IVF law will allow genetic testing prior to implantation to enable doctors to spot certain conditions such as Huntingtons’ Disease before the embryo is implanted in the womb.

The amendments were approved by parliament on July 6, gaining support from both parties with 66 votes in favour and three against.  

The new genetic testing reform has had a bumpy road to implementation. 

The Nationalist Party had initially opposed pre-implantation genetic testing and later argued that prospective parents should have a choice. 

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Its proposal to offer the alternative of polar body testing – which does not involve testing of embryos – was taken on board by the government. 

PN MPs Adrian Delia, Alex Borg, and Ivan Bartolo voted against the reform, which had made conservative members of the Opposition uncomfortable. Their fellow MPs Carm Mifsud Bonnici, Chris Said, and Jerome Caruana Cilia were not present for the vote. 

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