Metsola on Malta debate: ‘EP position on abortion is my position’

European Parliament president makes clear separation between her role and PN’s stance against abortion amendment

Roberta Metsola met Swedish PM Ulf Kristersson ahead of the Swedish presidency of the EU
Roberta Metsola met Swedish PM Ulf Kristersson ahead of the Swedish presidency of the EU

The European Parliament president Roberta Metsola will remain loyal to her office on abortion, as a parliamentary debate rages in her home country as to whether doctors should not be held criminally liable for necessary terminations when the mother’s life is in danger.

Metsola, who in the past has voted against EP laws or clauses that referred to reproductive rights for women, was cautious about pronouncing herself on the current debate in the House.

“This is a discussion taking place in the Maltese parliament. These days, I am here as president of the European Parliament. Ever since I became a vice-president and then president, the position of the parliament is clear on this issue, and this also my position,” Metsola told Swedish reporters at a press conference with the Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson. She was answering a question from MaltaToday.

Prime Minister Robert Abela said in parliament on Tuesday that the long-standing medical practice adopted over the years to intervene when a woman’s life was at risk enjoyed no legal protection.

“We could have comfortably done nothing and left doctors to their own devices but our conscience did not let us, more so when we had legal advice in black and white that doctors and women enjoyed no legal protection,” Abela said, defending the proposed amendment. “We do not want to leave doctors and women in limbo.”

Metsola’s party, the Nationalist Party, opposes the amendment and is expected to vote against. Malta bans abortion in all its forms.

Abela has made it clear that abortion was not being legalised and insisted the guiding principle should remain to try and safeguard the woman’s life and health as well as the baby’s.

Nationalist MP Adrian Delia said the legal change to Malta’s anti-abortion regime proposed by government will lead to the “indiscriminate killing of our babies”, and on Tuesday was on the verge of ridiculing Andrea Prudente, the American tourist who kick-started this very debate on abortion.

Prudente started miscarrying while on holiday in Malta but doctors refused to terminate the unviable pregnancy because the foetus still had a heartbeat.

“After 200 years of laws protecting doctors, women and the unborn child, we are now making a made-to-measure law because an American tourist who travelled from the west coast complained because Maltese doctors inserted tubes into her body,” Delia said.

Over 100 MEPs and 57 MPs from national parliaments are showing support for the Maltese government’s decision to introduce life-saving changes to Malta’s anti-abortion law.

The initiative was taken by Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer and signatories include MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats, the Greens, the Left bloc and Renew. It also includes MPs from 14 different national parliaments. Only one MEP from the European People’s Party signed the letter, while Engerer was the only Maltese MEP to sign.