C: Life Network Foundation Malta

Malta pushes back against abortion again as Council of Europe makes demand 

Malta has once again refused to legalise abortion despite renewed pressure from outside parties, stating that: “Malta does not agree with the interpretation that the right to sexual and reproductive health services includes an intrinsic right to abortion.”

The Maltese Government also highlighted that as a member of the European Union, the nation state had the right to make their own laws regarding abortion. 

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, recently appealed to Malta to repeal its total ban on abortion, claiming the ban jeopardises women’s right to healthcare. Mijatović also claimed the ban endangers other rights, including women’s right to life; to be free from torture and discrimination; and their right to privacy. 

The Council of Europe is a separate body from the European Union , and has drawn criticism for pushing abortion rights while asserting it is a human rights organisation. 

She said that it was “time for the authorities to repeal provisions criminalising abortion” and to “develop comprehensive regulation of women’s access to legal and safe abortion, and improve the availability of sexual and reproductive health services.”

Mijatović also recommended that the Maltese authorities should provide compulsory and comprehensive sexuality education; ensure that contraceptives are available and affordable; and guarantee that conscience objections on the part of medical providers don’t prevent women’s ‘access’ to abortion.

However, the Maltese Government rejected the assertion that abortion constitutes a form of healthcare and is a right, stating:  “Whilst Malta is fully committed to providing access to reproductive healthcare, and is working to improve these services, including the strengthening of comprehensive sexual health education, through a multisectoral approach, Malta does not agree with the interpretation that the right to sexual and reproductive health services includes an intrinsic right to abortion.”

And the Maltese Government also confirmed that EU member states have the right to make their own laws regarding abortion. 

Malta has withstood repeated efforts both domestically and internationally to decriminalise or legalise abortion. The island country, which is a member of the EU, remains the only country in Europe where abortion is illegal. 

Last year, Maltese member of Parliament, Marlene Farrguia, introduced a decriminalisation bill whilst simultaneously admitting that no woman had ever gone to jail for having an abortion in Malta.

 Pro-life Maltese president, George Vella, threatened to resign rather than sign a bill that “involves the authorization of murder,” and the Bill was ultimately defeated.

In a similar effort back in 2013, International Commission of Jurists, an NGO that describes its members as “advocates for justice and human rights,” put forward a report to the UN Human Rights Council equating Malta’s pro-life laws with torture. The NHO claimed that the nation’s laws prohibiting abortion unnnecasarily endager women’s lives, however the claim that prohibiting abortion increases maternal death is one that has been repeatedly debunked, including prior to Ireland’s abortion referendum in 2018.

In response to sustained pressure to legalise abortion, Malta “reiterated the government’s belief in the need to protect the right to life, including that of the unborn child. It expressed the view that, as human life begins at conception, the termination of pregnancy through procedures of induced abortion at any stage of gestation was an infringement of this right.”

Maltese leaders stressed that their pro-life laws do not put women’s lives at risk. In its response to the commissioner’s remarks, the Government noted that no maternal deaths or abortion complications have been recorded in the last ten years.

“The government has insisted that no one in need of treatment is denied treatment or is turned away. ‘If the mother’s life is in danger, every effort is made to save both lives, and the principle of double effect applies (as in the case of an ectopic pregnancy).’”

But the government also insisted that Malta disagreed with the interpretation that “the right to sexual and reproductive health services includes an inherent right to abortion.”

COLOMBIA DECRIMINALISES ABORTION

Meanwhile, in a 5-4 decision, Colombia this week voted to decriminalise abortion up to 24 weeks, following in the footsteps of other large Latin American countries like Mexico and Argentina. The decision was described as “tragic” by pro-life groups.

The decision was made by Colombia’s high court, generally considered to be more liberal than the rest of the country, in a 5-4 split decision. The question was originally to be decided in November of 2021, but when Judge Alejandro Linares made public comments in favour of abortion, questions were raised over whether the judge ought to recuse himself, which he eventually did. 

The Washington Post reports that the remaining judges were evenly split, according to the so the court added a tie-breaking judge who ultimately tipped the decision in favor of abortion. Prior to the court’s decision, abortions in the country were allowed only in cases of rape, severe fetal malformation, or in cases of danger to the mother’s life. According to medics, including neonatologist Dr. Kendra Kolb, abortion is never medically necessary to save a woman’s life despite widely shared claims from abortion advocates.

As a result of the court’s decision, abortions in Colombia may now legally be committed until the 24th week of pregnancy. 

Pro-lifers in the country expressed anguish at the news, taking to social media to share their disappointment. Senator María del Rosario Guerra tweeted, “A woman doesn’t need to abort when her pregnancy is unwanted or presents complications. She needs public policies, social accompaniment and options for life, not the offer of abortion as the first and only way out.” 

On Twitter she also posted a photo of pro-life activists outside the court with their blue scarves and handkerchiefs – as opposed to the abortion supporters’ green ones – and with small headstone-like tributes to preborn lives lost.

Up until recently, a number of European nations protected the unborn by banning abortions. Ireland, of course, maintained equal legal protection for both mother and unborn child in pregnancy up until the 2018 abortion referendum. According to a 2007 report on Maternal mortality by the World Health Organisation, Unicef, UNFPA, and the World Bank, Ireland then had one of the lowest instances of maternal mortality (maternal death) in the entire world. 

Northern Ireland was forced to legalise abortion in 2019 by the UK Parliament, but the province did not vote for abortion to be legalised. As reported by Gript, a very significant majority of the public submissions made to a consultation on abortion in Northern Ireland organised by the British government opposed any changes to the abortion law. 

Abortions remain illegal in almost all cases in Poland, but Malta is the only European country that completely bans abortions.

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