Sant: Abortion is fundamental human right, but Charter enshrinement a political gimmick

Labour MEP Alfred Sant abstained on resolution to enshrine abortion in EU Charter because healthcare right must be introduced without pressure from EU institutions

Labour MEP Alfred Sant
Labour MEP Alfred Sant

Former Labour prime minister and MEP Alfred Sant has called for abortion to be legalised “under strict and transparent conditions”, but said he had abstained on a vote in the European Parliament calling for abortion to be made a fundamental European right.

“Member States should exercise their own competence, with no EU involvement on this matter,” he stressed on the EP vote, which was co-sponsored by Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer.

The resolution proposed that Article 3 of the European Charter be amended to guarantee everyone the right to physical autonomy and universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including safe and legal abortion, without discrimination. Any amendment to the charter requires the unanimity of the member states, and health remains a national competence. The text also urged that abortion be fully decriminalised, in line with the 2022 WHO guidelines.

‘I would not stand against’: Alfred Sant on abortion in Malta

“Enshrining abortion as a right in the EU Charter qualifies more as a political gimmick than as a measure that really contributes new value added to the protection of women’s rights to bodily autonomy and independent decision making. Therefore, I chose to abstain on this resolution,” Sant said.

But Sant said he agreed that sexual and reproductive health and rights, including safe and legal healthcare for women, were fundamental human rights essential for upholding human dignity and achieving gender equality.

“The inherent rights of women to bodily autonomy and independent decision-making must be acknowledged and respected. When this relates to the complexities surrounding abortion, open and inclusive discussions have to be held within communities, respecting cultural norms while prioritizing fundamental rights.

“However, these discussions should primarily occur at the national level, with minimal participation from the EU institutions and their representatives. With time, reflection and experience I have increasingly come to believe that abortion should be legalised, under strict and transparent conditions of operation.”

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