The speaker of the federal parliament, Patrick Dewael (Open VLD) has written to the president of the Council of State to ask for a decision by the court on the matter of the decriminalisation of abortion within 30 days to prevent the issue being delayed even longer.
Earlier this week the parliament voted to block the vote in parliament by referring the amended text of the bill to the Council of State, which has to give an opinion on all proposed legislation.
The move was carried out by a coalition of Christian democrats and the right wing, with support from CD&V and CDH on the one hand, and N-VA and Vlaams Belang on the other.
At one point, CD&V president Joachim Coens threatened to torpedo talks to form a new government if the vote went ahead. Coens, who came into his post earlier this year after a career as CEO of the port of Zeebrugge, is one of the so-called Three Kings – himself, MR president George-Louis Bouchez and Open VLD president Egbert Lachaert – currently trying to put together a coalition.
The referral to the Council of State was seen as a ploy by opponents of the bill, which would remove abortion from the penal code in the first change to the law since 1990.
Now Dewael, whose own party was in favour of the referral, has written to the president of the council to point out that the bill has been sent to the Council of State for its opinion twice before, and that the latest set of amendments before parliament are a direct consequence of the Council of State’s earlier opinions.
“I also believe that repeated requests for advice without new information adversely affect the legislative process, and can be considered as an abuse of the right to request an opinion from the Council of State,” Dewael wrote.
“In the interests of our two institutions, it is essential that the Chamber can take a final decision. I therefore ask you to give this opinion within a time which takes account of the above.”
Addressing the parliament session on Thursday, Dewael pointed out that the vote on the bill could not be delayed indefinitely. The deadline of 30 days suggested by Dewael in his letter, however, would land some time after parliament sits for the last time before the summer recess, on 16 July.