Maltese MEPs in mixed vote as Matic ‘abortion’ report passes through EP

Maltese MEPs demonstrated a mixed voting pattern on Thursday on the controversial Matic report calling for the provision of universal access to safe and legal abortion across the European Union. Two Maltese MEPs abstained from the vote, one voted in favour and three voted to strike it down


The majority of MEPs voted in favour of the Matic report
The majority of MEPs voted in favour of the Matic report

The controversial Matic report on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights calling for the provision of universal access to safe and legal abortion across the European Union sailed through Thursday’s vote on the European Parliament on Thursday with 378 votes in favour, 255 votes against and with 32 abstentions.

The report, which was voted upon on Thursday, has caused something of a stir in Malta despite the fact that abortion is purely a matter of national competence and despite the fact that the report itself is non-legislative and non-binding.

The report, amongst other things, also calls on EU governments to ensure “a range of high-quality contraceptive methods and supplies, family counselling, and information on contraception”.

But when it came down to the final vote in Plenary on Thursday, Maltese MEPs were split.

Labour Party MEPs Alfred Sant and Josianne Cutajar abstained from the vote while their fellow Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer voted in favour, as he had pledged to do. Nationalist MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa were, meanwhile, joined by Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba in voting to strike it down.

The report has raised controversy, and not only in Malta. A group of MEPs, including rapporteur Croatian MEP Predrag Fred Matic, have staunchly defended it, claiming the report had been the target of an international campaign of hatred and misinformation led by a Polish anti-human rights organisation.

Engerer, the only Maltese MEP to have endorsed the report, had explained his stance earlier this week: “It is regrettable that in Malta the discussion on the report prepared by the Socialists on sexual health and reproductive rights, focus on just one aspect: abortion. The report is based on science. It is useless to argue that we believe in science to get the vaccine, but then do not rely on it for other issues.

“The main principle in the report is the importance of science and fact-based sexual education. It stresses on access to contraception for all, fertility treatments (IVF) for all, medical access for trans persons and rights for intersex persons, among others,” Engerer explained.

He noted how MEPs had repeatedly voted in favour of LGBTIQ rights, which, like abortion, is a matter of sovereign competence. “These are the thoughts I have considered on my decision to vote. I always fight for civil liberties, equality and accessibility and affordability of healthcare for all – and I will continue to do so.”

The Matic report urges member states to protect and enhance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, calling on EU countries to ensure access to a full range of high-quality, comprehensive and accessible SRHR, and to remove all barriers impeding full access to these services.

The report notes that some member states still have highly restrictive laws prohibiting abortion except in strictly defined circumstances, leading to women having to seek clandestine abortions or carry their pregnancy to term against their will, which the report deems a violation of their human rights.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

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