PN candidate casts first stone over abortion reference in socialists’ manifesto

PN candidate Peter Agius says reference to reproductive rights in socialist manifesto is “worrying”

Peter Agius
Peter Agius

Roll out the ‘big A’ – Nationalist candidate Peter Agius has jumped at news that the European socialists’ manifesto for the 2019 elections includes a clear reference at guaranteeing people’s full sexual and reproductive rights.

In a section of their manifesto calling for a binding EU gender equality strategy, the Socialists & Democrats called for “every individual [to have] access to their full sexual and reproductive rights [and] the right to decide over their own body.”

The reference was part of a section in which socialists called for a “feminist Europe with equal rights to all”, where women and men enjoy a same work-life balance and equal political participation.

Agius, a spokesperson for European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, insisted this showed disregard for the principle of subsidiarity, that leaves such matters in the hands of member states.

“It is very worrying that European Socialists include veiled references to abortion in a document pledging to be their plan of action for the next five years in the European Parliament… many Maltese people are attached to the fundamental right to life and human dignity from conception,” Agius said.

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Agius also said that Labour seemed “impotent to change” the inclusion of this reference to equal rights in the manifesto. “Goes to show that if we want to make an impact on Europe we need to work with Partit Nazzjonalista and within EPP – European People’s Party.”

Abortion remains a sensitive subject in Maltese politics, with even the former chairperson of the Green Party, Arnold Cassola, resigning from Alternattiva Demokratika after the party refused to disassociate itself from a call by candidate Mina Tolu for a safe space to debate abortion.

Laws vary greatly across the EU’s 28 member states: a complete ban, allowing it only under certain conditions, putting legal restrictions on it, or allowing women free rein to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

Abortion ban only in Malta

In Ireland, abortion is currently allowed only if the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life. The law was changed to allow this in 2013, in response to the case of Savita Halappanavar, who died because Ireland’s total ban prevented her from aborting the foetus during a miscarriage.

Only in Malta does a total ban exist. Any woman who has an abortion can be put in prison, along with the doctor who performs it. In Cyprus and Poland, abortion is only allowed in certain extreme situations such as rape or a major health threat to the mother.

In the UK and Finland, women seeking abortions have to get official medical permission before proceeding. In the former, two doctors must certify that an abortion is necessary for medical or social reasons. In the latter, abortion is theoretically only permitted under certain conditions (if a woman is under the age of 17, older than 40, already has four children or faces social difficulties or health problems), but in practice an abortion can be obtained without great difficulty.

In the 22 other states of the EU, abortion is legal without prior authorisation, although the specific laws differ, especially in relation to time limits. In most of these countries, abortion is only allowed in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy, but this cap varies from 10 weeks (in Portugal, for example) to 24 weeks (in the UK and the Netherlands, for example). That is while some countries, such as Germany, require a reflection period of a few days.

France, on the other hand, abolished this waiting period in 2015, before voting in 2017 to criminalise the online dissemination of false information seeking to dissuade women from choosing to have an abortion.

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