European Parliament tells Malta, Poland to repeal restrictive abortion laws

MEPs adopt resolution to enshrine the right to abortion in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights • Text urges Maltese authorities to decriminalise abortion and provide access to safe and legal abortion

The European Parliament voted in favour of enshrining the right to abortion in the EU Charter
The European Parliament voted in favour of enshrining the right to abortion in the EU Charter

The European Parliament has voted to enshrine the right to abortion in the EU Charter of Fundamental rights.

In a resolution adopted on Thursday with 336 votes in favour, 163 against and 39 abstentions, MEPs are urging member states to fully decriminalize abortion in line with the 202 WHO guidelines, and to remove and combat obstacles to abortion.

The text calls on Malta and Poland to repeal their laws and other measures that ban and restrict it.

The MEPs condemn the fact that abortion is being denied by medical practitioners, and in some cases by entire medical institutions, on the basis of “conscientious objector clauses”, often resulting in situations where delays could endanger the patient’s life or health.

The Parliament voted that abortion methods and procedures should be an obligatory part of the curriculum for doctors and medical students, and that free contraceptive methods and supplies should be made available, particularly to vulnerable groups.

MEPs also want the European Commission to make sure that anti-choice groups do not receive EU funding.

The vote comes after France became the first country to enshrine the right to abortion in its constitution on 4 March 2024.

While the text calls on member states, including Malta, to carry out certain measures, healthcare is ultimately a national competence.

Changing the EU Charter of Fundamental rights to include abortion would require unanimous agreement from all member states.

How did the Maltese MEPs vote?

Labour MEPs Alex Agius Saliba and Josianne Cutajar voted against the whole text, as did Nationalist MEP David Casa. Meanwhile, PL MEP Alfred Sant abstained.

Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer was not present for the vote, but had cosigned the text for tabling.

On the specific clause concerning abortion in Poland and Malta, all the Labour MEPs present voted against, as did Casa.

In a statement after the vote, Casa said Prime Minister Robert Abela should "come clean on abortion", insisting that "constant efforts to impinge on national competences when it comes to the abortion laws are destined to fail". 

“The PL’s position on abortion is already questionable following the covert attempts to introduce it last year when changes were proposed to the criminal code which were subsequently pulled back as a result of public outrage. Robert Abela should come clean and clearly state whether he supports the actions of his MEPs in the European Parliament when one of them co-signed the Resolution and out of a delegation of 4 MEPs only half of them voted against it.”

Nationalist Party MEP candidate Peter Agius also questioned Abela's position on abortion. "Cyrus Engerer just sent a boomerang to Robert Abela. A European Parliament resolution now calls on Robert Abela and European Council to amend EU treaties to include abortion as a fundamental human right."

"Abela cannot hide. He is bound to tell us how he will vote in the European Council - and this before 8 of June."

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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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