President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said she had signed the Embryo Act “solely out of loyalty” to the Constitution, while she holds strong to her belief that human beings should be respected from the moment of conception.
“I could have taken the option, mooted in the press, to absent myself from the country while this Bill received its third reading in Parliament.
“However, I have never been one to shirk my responsibilities or my duties as President of Malta and I will not do so now,” she said in a statement on Thursday morning.
Ms Coleiro Preca said she has always believed that every human being’s dignity and physical integrity should be respected from the moment of conception to the grave.
"Never should any human being, including embryos, be treated as an object or intentionally put at risk," she said, adding that the challenge society faced was to continue "protecting the weak, including vulnerable embryos".
Malta's moral fibre was at risk of disintegrating if we disrespected human life at any stage of development, the President added.
Commending the contribution by civil society and empathising with childless couples, Ms Coleiro Preca explained that after seeking ethical, moral and legal advice from several experts, and following a long period of reflection and personal discernment, she has decided to sign the act.
“I want to make it clear that this decision in no way compromises my firm views and ethical values on human life, the family and the wellbeing of the unborn child from the moment of conception.
“I am signing the act, in the form it was presented to me by the government, solely out of respect and loyalty to my country’s democratic process and to the Constitution, which does not confer upon me legislative functions except that of assenting to Bills when these are already approved by the House of Representatives.”
Moreover, she was bound to act on the advice of the government of the day or of a minister of government and, in the case of Bills approved by the House of Representatives, to assent thereto without delay.
Lawyer Tonio Azzopardi, in his personal capacity, has filed a constitutional application arguing,among other things, that the amendments should be declared null because they breached constitutional provisions on the right to life and respect for human life in all its stages.
Pro-life groups have been resisting the Bill.