Abortion no longer taboo in Maltese elections: PM says debate must not be stifled

Labour leader shows open approach to debate, ADPD leader: ‘Decriminalise abortion now’

(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

Prime Minister Robert Abela has said he will not “kick out people” from the Labour Party for expressing pro-abortion views, and said the public debate on abortion should not be stifled.

It was a statement echoed only by Green party chairperson Carmel Cacopardo in a debate between party leaders at the University of Malta.

It was the first time abortion got a mention in the electoral campaign, this time without the leader of a major party outrightly dismissing or condemning the one-time taboo subject.

“I want to understand people who do abortions. I don’t want to stigmatise them or or kick them out,” Abela said, referring to PN leader Bernard Grech’s previous tirade against PN members who are pro choice.

Abela said that while abortion was not in the party’s manifesto, it is an ongoing debate which should not be shut down, and said there was more to do on sexual health and civil liberties in Malta.

Abela said sexual health in education should reflect today’s realities. “We will give contraceptive pill and the morning-after pill for free. The IUD will be offered as part of the national health service. Menstrual products will be provided free in schools,” he said.

ADPD Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said the party was in favour of decriminalisation of abortion for women. “No woman who receives an abortion, for whatever reason, should be treated like a criminal. They need help, empathy, not state persecution,” he said.

“Our laws aren’t clear on what interventions can happen when the mother has pregnancy difficulties or when her life is at stake. The law needs to be clear. Lawyers say there’s double effect, self-defence, but when we come to the fact, in October 2019 a woman entered hospital because of an infection due to pregnancy and they refused to take action,” he said. “A doctor should be able to operate on a woman when her life is at stake.”

Nationalist leader Bernard Grech said it is important for the country to have a discussion on abortion, but stated his party was in favour of life “from birth to death”.

“We need to understand why women undergo abortions and treat them with empathy,” he said.

He said sex should not be a taboo, and should be explained to children even at a younger age so that they can practice better relationships. “At the end of the day we want a health population, not physically but also sexually and mentally.”

He also said “it was nice to hear” Abela wants to do more on the morning-after pill, “but a year ago we had already said that we’d offer the morning-after pill for free.”

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