Anti-choice NGO wants Maltese MEPs to vote against abortion as EU Charter right

Resolution co-sponsored by Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer will urge MEPs to recognise abortion as fundamental right to be added to EU Charter

A pro-choice rally in 2022 calls for amendments to the Criminal Code that criminalises abortion
A pro-choice rally in 2022 calls for amendments to the Criminal Code that criminalises abortion

MEPs are set to vote Thursday on a resolution demanding that the “right to abortion” is included in the EU’s Charter on Fundamental Rights.

The resolution is co-sponsored by Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer amongst other socialists, as well as MEPs from Renew, the Greens, and The Left.

With sexual and reproductive health rights being rolled back in several EU member states, MEPs want to enshrine the right to abortion in the EU Charter, a demand they have made several times.

Labour MEP makes plea for abortion to become fundamental right in EU Charter

France became the first country to enshrine the right to abortion in its constitution on 4 March. In a debate in plenary on 14 March, Engerer billed himself the first Maltese in Brussels to have spoken in favour of women’s full bodily autonomy, in an impassioned intervention to a debate calling for abortion to become a fundamental right in the European Charter of fundamental rights.

The resolution urges member states to fully decriminalise abortion in line with the 2022 WHO guidelines, and to remove and combat obstacles to safe and legal abortion and access to SRHR.

It also calls on Poland and Malta to repeal their laws and other measures concerning bans and restrictions on abortion, specifically requesting that the Maltese authorities immediately decriminalise abortion and provide access to safe and legal abortion in line with the 2022 WHO guidelines

In Malta abortion is de facto banned and criminalised. MEPs said the July 2023 reform saw “a worrisome shift” that removed rights and added even more risks and barriers than before to access to abortion care, because doctors can only terminate a pregnancy if the person’s life is at immediate risk and before ‘fetal viability’, and are required to refer the dying pregnant person to a medical panel of three consultants.

The MEPs say that whereas cases of grave jeopardy to health are excluded from the law, a pregnant person with cancer in Malta cannot be treated accordingly and must wait for the birth of the child before accessing cancer treatment, resulting in lower chances of successful treatment.

Irrespective of the MEPs’ vote, healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health, falls under national powers. Changing the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to include abortion would require unanimous agreement from all member states.

In Malta, Life Network urged Maltese MEPs to vote against the resolution.

Life Network chairperson Miriam Sciberras claimed that in Malta there were “no restrictions on medical life-saving treatments available to women who are pregnant” and that maternal mortality in Malta was the same as the EU average, demonstrating top quality maternity care.

 “While the European Parliament may vote on amending the Charter, it has no competence to change the Charter, as all changes to the Charter must be agreed unanimously by each member state, not the European Parliament,” Sciberras said.

“It is particularly concerning that Cyrus Engerer, is one of the proposers of the draft which explicitly criticises Malta, in light of the fact that the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, and every member of the Maltese Parliament only last year, voted unanimously in favour of the current law in Malta relating to the protection of mothers and their unborn babies,” Sciberras said.

Life Network said that medical advancements have made it even clearer that an unborn baby, at every stage of development, is always a human being, and as such has inalienable rights and deserves protection. 

“Abortion does not protect women, but rather takes the lives of women, along with men, in the womb, while hurting mothers. The way forward is to support women in their pregnancies and help them become great mothers to their children,” Sciberras said.

“This draft proposal, framed in human rights language, is the antithesis of human rights. It attempts to dehumanise the unborn child, giving him or her no rights whatsoever and turning children into commodities.”

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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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