JPO raises spectre of abortion in ‘humiliating’ woman’s rights pledge for Borg

Liberal MEP Sophie In’t Veld: ‘The views of the Commission on abortion do matter.

Tonio Borg will have to pledge his commitment to seven issues as demanded by MEPs.
Tonio Borg will have to pledge his commitment to seven issues as demanded by MEPs.

Independent MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando is claiming demands by MEPs to make commissioner-designate Tonio Borg pledge his commitment to a series of promises had set a "humiliating" precedent for a member of the European Commission.

Pullicino Orlando, formerly a Nationalist MP, also said a demand for Borg to commit himself to "actively support EU policies on women's rights" will mean he will have to support sexual health and reproductive rights that will include access to safe and legal abortions.

"The pledges mean that, in other words, the MEPs are not taking Tonio Borg's word for it," Pullicino Orlando said of the hearing held last week in which the Maltese foreign minister was called to account on previous statements dealing with the rights of same-sex couples in rental agreements, and his position on abortion, which he wanted entrenched in the Constitution.

Pullicino Orlando also said Borg was being asked to "effectively support abortion" by signing up to the pledge: "If I were Tonio Borg I would find a problem in making such a pledge, as the words 'actively supporting' also point towards supporting abortion. Abortion is recognised as a woman's right in the European Union."

The seven pledges followed an inconclusive meeting of MEPs from the environment and public health affairs committee, who could not agree on the approval of Borg. ENVI committee chair Matthias Groote said that Borg will have to deliver a public "unambiguous and full commitment" to seven separate pledges - such as treating all EU citizens equally and actively supporting EU policies on women's rights - if he is to be endorsed by a majority of the European Parliament.

Pullicino Orlando said he couldn't understand why the EU was "interfering" with this issue. "This has never happened before and it is unacceptable that it is happening today," he said, adding that no other Maltese commissioners were ever asked to make such pledges before.

Abortions remains a matter outside the European Union's competence, but the bloc supports development aid programmes that reduces the likelihood of women undertaking unsafe and back-street abortions.

Borg relied on the principle of subsidiarity when asked by MEPs during last Tuesday's hearing over his position against abortion, saying the EU had no competence, and that he could not interfere in member states' affairs on such a subject.

Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil agreed, telling MaltaToday on Saturday that Borg was "correct in what he said because the EU has no competence on abortion. Ultimately he will work within the limits of his competence... no more, no less".

Dutch liberal MEP Sophia In't Veld, vice-chair of the EP's committee on civil liberties also said it was up to member states to decide on abortion, but that the matter will fall under the health portfolio that Borg is expected to take up.

"Access to adequate public health services, including sexual and reproductive health rights, is a basic right. The European Parliament has repeatedly called for abortion to be legal and safe across Europe," In't Veld told MaltaToday.

In't Veld, who supports legalising abortion across Europe as a way to end unsafe abortion, insisted that in countries with very strict abortion laws, the number of unsafe abortions is high, whereas in countries with more liberal laws, the number is lower.

"More generally, in countries with more liberal policies on sexual and reproductive rights, the number of abortions tends to be much lower than in countries with strict laws. Countering unsafe abortions - often with complications - is clearly a matter of promoting public health, part of the portfolio of the Commissioner in charge," she said.

In't Veld said that a recent case in Ireland, where a pregnant Indian woman died after being denied an abortion, showed what it meant when abortion is denied on religious grounds, "even when the life of the mother is at stake, and when the mother herself does not belong to the religion adhered to by the hospital".

The Dutch MEP insisted that it was shocking that such a thing could happen within the EU when protecting human rights "is definitely an EU responsibility".

"I consider it a gross violation of the right to life of the woman. There have been comparable cases in other countries, for example Poland, where a woman lost her eyesight as the result of a refused abortion. This too is a violation of the human rights of that woman," In't Veld said.

In't Veld said an example of where the Commission's view on abortion is relevant is over the so-called 'US no-abortion clause', which ties not only sponsors from the United States to development aid, but also their partners - including the EU, the United Nations and the Red Cross.

In't Veld explained that this rule effectively meant that women who became pregnant as a result of rape as an act of war - such as in Congo - are denied an abortion. "The EU should not accept that its humanitarian efforts are subject to this rule. These women should have access to a safe abortion.
 So, in this case, the views of the Commission on abortion do matter."

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We are just trying to be holier than the pope and instead of supporting and counseling pregnant women to take the right decision, we may be simply pushing them to seek stop gap solutions abroad. We think we are saving a life and yet create hell on earth and countless problems to those women who may not be prepared or even mature enough to take up motherhood. After all, a baby is not just for Christmas it's for life.
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If you told us the pay package that comes with the job I think we will be better able to understand the sacrifices Tonio will make to his 'principles'.
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The Strange Case of Doctor Tonio and Mister Borg !!!! MORAL FUNAMBULISM !!!
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Remember Mr Borg,the solution lies inside of ourselves.Dont leave Europeans to impose.
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I cannot understand how T Borg who is well known for his stand against abortion in Malta, can accept a post in the EU Commission which provides funding to two of the world’s largest abortion providers, IPPF and MSI. http://www.europeandignitywatch.org/fileadmin/user_upload/PDF/Day_to_Day_diverse/Funding_of_Abortion_Through_EU_Development_Aid_full_version.pdf
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kukkanja, have a long look at the bait in the trap.
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The pigeons have come home to roost! The Maltese voted for a Europe that existed 50 years ago! On the other hand, I can't understand Tonio Borg who only last year wanted to include his anti abortion stand in the constitution, and today viola, he is ready to accept whatever the Europeans want to impose?
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Joseph MELI
FAO ALGAN Abortion as a standalone issue is outwith the competence of the EU but is within the parameters of women's rights as enshrined in the Freedom of Choice Act .In any event, to have absolutely no possible circumstances whatsoever in which to allow and sanction an abortion (such as rape,incest,danger to the mother's life ,etc) is perverse and should be a matter of common sense and social responsibility-both sadly massively lacking here.I am not pro-abortion but I am pro-life and pro-choice First protect the living.
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If I where Dr Borg I will not sign anything - I do not want to be humiliated by MEP's. He has a right to be against abortion, something that I also believe in. So either they accept me as I am or else vote against, but being humiliated is out of the question. After all none of the other Commissioners where subjected to this treatment. On the other hand if Dr Borg sees that this is going to be a problem for him in the future, notwithstanding his perfect impeccable hearing in Brussels, he should abandon his nomination.
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I am afraid that JPO is simply speculating and as I read the statement "actively supporting EU policies on women's rights " there are dozens of women's rights which I can name which fall within the competence of EU. What I don't understand and see is how JPO focuses on a controversial right of women'sright of choice namely abortion which falls totally outside the competence of the EU. I am afraid I don't understand political stances taken by some of our politicians which lack consistency and often in principle contradict each other.
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Joseph MELI
It is not abortion that is recognised as a woman's right in the EU but rather the underpinning and over-riding right attached to this -as in possibly he most fundamental right of all -the freedom to choose.Malta's current position on abortion -as in ZERO-TOLERANCE with NO CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER countenanced whereby a termination may be sanctioned is pre-historic and an absolute disgraceful stance which may cost the life of a pregnant lady as happened recently in Ireland.Yet here they do perform abortions when "their is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother" but apparently this is subject to interpretation by medical staff and if it impacts on their religious beliefs.Does this stance sound familiar?