Right to life doesn’t apply to unborn, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner says

Human rights activist Nils Muižnieks says women’s rights in Malta jeopardised by abortion ban, calls on authorities to address this • Recent MaltaToday survey finds issue remains no-go area for Maltese

Right to life does not apply to the unborn, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks has said
Right to life does not apply to the unborn, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks has said

Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, has said that after a detailed analysis of the interpretation of the right to life in core treaties, it was clear to him that such a right did not apply prior to the birth of an individual, and that a prenatal right to life was not recognised by international human rights law and its mechanisms.

The human rights activist told Times of Malta that he was particularly struck by the lack of an open debate about the issue in Malta, and noted that women’s rights were jeopardised by the “very restrictive” abortion law.

He said that some made the argument that access to abortion was not a matter of women’s human rights, while others, in Malta and other places, disputed whether it was even a human right.                                 

“From a thorough analysis of human rights standards and jurisprudence applicable to Council of Europe Member States, it is clear to me that women’s human rights cannot be protected without ensuring their effective access to safe and legal abortion care,” Muižnieks told the newspaper.

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MaltaToday Survey: Abortion remains a no-go area for Maltese

A MaltaToday survey published earlier this month showed that public opinion in Malta was still very much against abortion, with it being overwhelmingly rejected across all age groups.

Asked whether they agreed with abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in particular circumstances that were not specified, 83% of respondents said ‘no’.

The rejection was stronger (95%) when respondents were asked whether they agreed with unrestricted abortion in the first 12 weeks and unrestricted abortion at whatever stage of the pregnancy (97%).

The only instance in which a relative majority agreed with abortion was in cases of the mother’s life being in danger. This seemed to be the only exception people were ready to make, with 46% agreeing with abortion in such cases, 27% disagreeing, and 27% who were unsure of where they stood on the matter.

Muižnieks was critical of Malta’s total ban on abortion, saying it “contradicts the norms of international human rights law, because it denies women a range of fundamental human rights”, as he called on the Maltese authorities to remedy this situation.

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