The Democratic Party was split down the middle on Monday as officials took to social media to announce their differing positions on abortion.
The Nationalist and Democratic parties earlier on Monday said they had both signed a pledge to bring forward amendments to entrench Malta’s abortion ban into the Constitution by the end of the year.
The two parties bound themselves to a written declaration by pro-life activists against any legislation that could lead to the introduction of abortion.
PD leader Godfrey Farrugia told Times of Malta on Monday that the party had signed the pledge "conditionally" as a commitment to engage with all sectors of society.
Shortly after news of the pledge broke, one of the PD’s MEP candidates, Cami Appelgren, announced that she was not personally in favour of the declaration which she insisted had been drafted by "patriarchal fundamentalists”. (See post below)
Describing herself as “pro-prevention” she said she would work to prevent women from ever being put in a situation where they felt they needed an abortion. However, she was not in favour of blanket bans on abortions.
Then, PD founder Marlene Farrugia took to Facebook to announce that she fully supported Ms Appelgren’s position.
"As founder of PD I wish to distance myself from the extremists and fundamentalists who came up with this senseless pledge which has nothing to do with regard for human life but has everything to do with subordination of females,” she wrote.
However, rather than saying she was against a blanket ban, she called for a legal framework which would allow a woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy as soon as the fetus was viable and could live outside the womb.
"That way the mother lives her life and continues with her choices, while the child’s right to life and to make his/her own choices is fully respected,” she said.
Then it was the turn of PD deputy leader Timothy Alden to chime in, saying his leader had signed in his own name, under the understanding that PD had a clause in its statute that allowed for freedom of conscience.
He urged voters to see the pledge "in context”.
"Like all other mainstream parties, we have both conservatives and liberals in our ranks. Just because our party leader signed this pledge does not mean all candidates have instantly been radicalised one way or another,” he wrote.
...fed up of the European Parliament elections being hijacked by the topic of abortion- Anthony Buttigieg
'A bit of a mess', former leader admits
Speaking with Times of Malta, former PD leader and current MEP candidate Anthony Buttigieg admitted the party had "made a bit of a mess of the issue”.
He said he was personally against abortion, but was for an open discussion on the subject.
"Only the Maltese government and people can decide on this," he said. "I also believe that the issue has to be addressed. It's pointless banning abortion here if we do not acknowledge that women are going abroad to do it".
He later added that he was fed up of the European Parliament elections being hijacked by the topic of abortion.
What did the pledge state?
Through the controversial pledge, party leaders commit to amendments to the Constitution that would add the words “from conception” to article 33. According to the pledge, such a motion should be moved before the end of the year.
The article currently states: “No person shall be intentionally deprived of his life save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the law of Malta of which he has been convicted”.
No reference is made in the declaration to the fact that article 33 leaves the door open to capital punishment - banned in all circumstances under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The party leaders also pledge to oppose any attempts to amend article six – which outlines how the Constitution overrides inconsistent laws - and to use the party whip to oppose any other abortion legislation.