The return of the Brussels abortion scare

In a re-run of history, the main actors have traded places as the PN dangles the EU abortion scare in its election campaign

The EU has no remit on abortion
The EU has no remit on abortion

The European Parliament has no remit to impose abortion legislation on any country. It never had that power when Malta joined the EU in 2004 and still does not have that power today.

MEPs can approve resolutions on abortion to apply political pressure on any country but it will all be a waste of time because the resolutions will always remain non-binding.

Whether abortion gets to be introduced in Malta or not falls squarely on the Maltese electorate and its representatives in national parliament.

And even if this is not enough, Malta had negotiated a protocol that is included in its EU accession agreement specifically on abortion.

Protocol No. 7 on “abortion in Malta” made it amply clear that nothing in the EU treaties or acts modifying them, “shall affect the application in the territory of Malta of national legislation relating to abortion”.

The protocol was never needed but given the sensitivity of the subject and the Labour Opposition’s scaremongering at the time of accession, the government had insisted on including it as a safeguard.

This is why there is more than a hint of irony in the latest Nationalist Party billboard focussing on the right to life. For those, like me, who followed the EU accession period intensely, the current controversy is a re-run of history, only that the main characters have traded places.

The PN knows, more than anyone else, that the EU has no remit on abortion. The party – indeed its former leader, Simon Busuttil who headed the Malta-EU Information Centre – had made it more than clear in 2003 that the Labour Party’s scaremongering was not borne out of facts.

But 15 years, it seems, are long enough for people to swap sides. Today, the PN is scaremongering on abortion as part of its European election campaign while the PL has converted to the fact that abortion was never and can never be imposed by Brussels.

If only the PL conversion happened 15 years ago a lot of controversy could have been avoided back then.

That Labour MEPs will today be sitting alongside fellow socialists who agree that abortion should form part a woman’s reproductive rights is immaterial just as it was immaterial back in 2004 that Malta was joining a bloc in which abortion was legal in every member state bar one – Ireland.

There are no ifs and buts: Abortion can only ever be introduced in Malta by an Act approved by the Maltese parliament.

Irrespective of what Malta’s MEPs believe and with whom they sit is irrelevant to the abortion debate that should be happening back home.

This does not mean that the electorate has no right to know what their MEPs stand for. That is a legitimate expectation. But to jump to the conclusion that abortion will be introduced in Malta by socialists in Brussels is absurd.

So far, no political party in Malta has ever sought a popular mandate to make abortion legal and the recent pressure to change the current state of affairs has come from a coalition of civil society groups.

Malta is today the only EU member state with an outright ban on abortion after Ireland changed its law in May last year following a referendum.

And yet, it is only the Maltese electorate and the MPs we elect to serve us in Valletta that have the prerogative to change this state of affairs or retain the status quo. Anybody suggesting otherwise is, at best misinformed, at worst trying to maliciously mislead the public.