The Labour Party is planning to propose a "national consultation" to discuss decriminalising abortion, having dismissed a parliamentary move to do so as a bad idea.
Labour's parliamentary group met on Friday morning to discuss its position on a surprise motion presented by independent MP Marlene Farrugia earlier this week.
Farrugia proposed a private member’s bill that would amend the criminal code to ensure women and medical professionals who commit or facilitate an abortion do not face jail time.
According to law, women who have the procedure can be jailed for up to three years while medical professionals who help them can face up to four years behind bars.
The party issued a statement following that meeting in which it described Farrugia's motion as one that would "choke discussion" about a sensitive issue that should be debated across broader society.
Labour insiders told Times of Malta that instead, the party is planning to announce a national consultation process on the subject.
This, they said, would seek to gauge society’s feelings on the matter while informing the public of sensitive moral, scientific and legislative facets to the debate.
The consultation could form part of Labour’s election proposals for the next general election, which must be held within the next 13 months.
Sources said that during the PL’s group meeting it was agreed that Farrugia’s proposal would not be supported by the group. It follows a statement from Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech, who said the PN would never be in favour of decriminalising abortion.
With both main sides of parliament opposing the bill, it appears impossible for Farrugia’s proposal to be debated in parliament this legislature.
MPs’ legislative proposals must be approved by the House Business Committee in order to be placed on parliament’s agenda.
The committee is made up of five members, all PL and PN MPs, who are against adding the proposal to the remaining schedule of debates.
'Labour wants women under their filthy heel'
Farrugia reacted to Labour's dismissive statement by saying the party was using talk of "debate" as a smokescreen.
"Since when does discussion in Parliament on any issue ‘ choke’ public debate?" she asked, writing on Facebook.
"All bills are discussed in parliament before being promulgated. Did we stop public discussion on all bills to date because we discussed them in parliament?"
Farrugia went on to say that Labour "just do not want to decriminalise abortion to keep women under their filthy heel."
Prime Minister Robert Abela has previously made it clear he is against abortion and President George Vella, who would have to sign for a bill to become law, has also stated that he is firmly against abortion.
The PL recalled Abela’s position but said that the prime minister “still believes that he should keenly follow what is being said” about the matter across society.
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