PN against abortion but wants ‘immediate’ parliamentary debate, promises free contraception

Nationalist Party promises free contraception to everyone and free access to the morning-after pill if elected to government • Party remains resolute against abortion

The PN is pledging to offer free contraception and free morning after pill in its sexual health policy
The PN is pledging to offer free contraception and free morning after pill in its sexual health policy

Abortion should be "immediately" discussed in parliament, Nationalist Party MP Stephen Spiteri said as he unveiled his party's proposals to make contraception free for everyone.

Spiteri, who is the PN's health spokesperson, was asked about abortion during a press conference dealing with sexual health policy.

“Abortion should be immediately discussed in the Maltese parliament but in the present, the PN takes the stand to protect life from conception. I leave this subject for a discussion with NGOs and other stakeholders that could offer information and education on the subject,” Spiteri said.

PN candidate Emma Portelli Bonnici said the PN is pledging free contraception to everyone if elected to government, in order to address one of the lowest rates of condom use by men in Europe.

She also announced that the PN will offering free access to the morning after pill, including at Mater Dei Hospital for victims of rape.

READ ALSO: Buying the morning-after pill is an arduous task

Spiteri said government is not investing in and is ignoring the sexual health sector of the country, while dishing out “millions to Steward Health Care”.

Spiteri said that Malta is facing new challenges on sexual health and is utilising a policy from 10 years ago, “which does not reflect the new realities”. He called for an injection of more human resources and financing in the public sector, in order to address the current “inefficiencies”.

There is an alarming rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Malta and a high rate of unwanted pregnancies, Spiteri said. He added that the GU clinic cannot cope with 400,000 people excluding tourists and migrants.

Spiteri stressed on need for more sexual education, as he said Malta only has a 2% rate of self-screening at the GU clinic. “Prevention of diseases comes if there is correct and clear information, that is comprehensible by everyone.”

He said that a PN government would increase investment on the testing facilities and provide a wider range of free sexual health medicine.

PN candidate Ian Vassallo Hagi said the party is discussing liberally the strategy for sexual health, in order to break this taboo.

He said government has reduced investment in this sector and failed to provide the promised sexual clinics in the community. "On the other hand the PN wants to expand the services in primary care with primary clinics and partnership with the private sector," Vassallo Hagi said.

He also emphasised that mental health should not be ignored, as he said that patients that face sexual health problems do not find enough help in the community.

Only last week, Health Minister Chris Fearne said a revamped sexual health policy will have to wait until the start of next year after a draft that was presented to him was based on studies from 12 years ago.

Fearne has long-promised a new policy on the matter but it keeps getting postponed.

Abortion is one of the more trickier and ethically charged subjects a new sexual health policy will have to deal with. Malta is the only country in  the EU with a complete ban on abortion.