Malta’s female MPs reticent on morning-after pill

Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli refuses to divulge stand on legislation of morning-after pill pending an internal discussion, but Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg says she is against the pill and "anything connected to abortion."

Malta’s nine female MPs have remained tight-lipped on their party’s official stand on the introduction of the morning-after pill, with many reserving their judgment until an internal party discussion is carried out.

As yet, Malta’s major political parties have refused to take a clear stand on the legislation of the morning-after pill, with Alternattiva Demokratika the only party to have taken an official stand on the subject.

The discussion was ignited this week after the Women’s Rights Foundation, backed by 102 women, filed a judicial protest against the ban of emergency contraception in Malta. The protest says that the ban breaches their fundamental rights as women as ratified in various international conventions.

Speaking to MaltaToday, a cautious civil liberties minister Helena Dalli refused to divulge her stand on the debate, arguing that she has her own convictions and that she would discuss them internally.

Similarly, Dalli’s fellow female Labour MPs, Justyne Caruana and Deborah Schembri, were also reticent on whether they are in favour of the legislation of the morning-after pill. Speaking to Sunday newspaper Illum, the parliamentary secretaries said they would not take an official stand on the issue until an internal discussion is carried out within the Labour parliamentary group.

The debate, however, is likely to expose some divergent opinions as Labour’s new deputy leader Chris Cardona and justice minister Owen Bonnici have both told MaltaToday that they are in favour of a debate on the introduction of the morning-after pill. Conversely, the Government’s Whip, Godfrey Farrugia – who has also opposed Labour’s plans to introduce embryo freezing - struck out against the pill, saying it had an abortive effect as it halts pregnancy after unprotected sex.

Farrugia’s partner Marlene Farrugia, an independent MP and the leader of the fledgling Democratic Party, insisted that until it is ascertained that the pill was not abortifacient, then she would not be supporting its legislation.

Likewise, the Nationalist Party’s shadow minister of health, Claudette Buttigieg, told Sunday newspaper Illum that she would oppose the morning-after pill on the basis that she “is against anything connected to abortion.”

On their part, Marthese Portelli, Paula Mifsud Bonnici, and Kristy Debono, the Nationalist Party MPs, said the PN “is and will always remain against abortion”, and that following the judicial protest, the party’s parliamentary group will discuss the legal, ethical and political aspects internally.

Moreover, former PN Gozo minister Giovanna Debono, said she was opposed to the pill as it could be abortive in nature.

On Sunday, Alternattiva Demokratika said it would back the legislation of the morning-after pill and held that its introduction is part of a “desperately needed” reform in sexual health education. Similarly, NGO Moviment Graffiti have also expressed their support in favour of the pill saying it was a fight for equality.

Calls for legislators to introduce the morning-after pill were, however, dismissed by the Catholic Church as well as pro-life organisation Gift of Life and a number of splinter groups on the basis that the pill was abortifacient in nature.

More in National