Abortion as a fundamental right: half of Malta’s MEPs vote no

A Resolution approved by the European Parliament calls on Poland and Malta to repeal their laws and other measures that ban and restrict abortion.

Malta’s MEPs adopted different positions on a European Parliament resolution calling for the right to abortion to be enshrined in the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, reflecting the debate back home on this controversial issue.

The resolution, which is non-binding, was adopted during a mini-plenary session on Thursday with 336 votes in favour, 163 against, and 39 abstentions.

A look at the Maltese MEPs’ votes shows that three of the six – Alex Agius Saliba (S&D), Josianne Cutajar (S&D), and David Casa (EPP) – voted against the resolution, while Alfed Sant (S&D) abstained. Cyrus Engerer (S&D) was not present for the voting session due to parliamentary work in Oslo, but is well-known for his unwavering pro-choice stand. In a post on his Facebook page, he re-iterated his support for the resolution, and thanked the S&D Goup for entrusting him to negotiate on the text on its behalf. As to Roberta Metsola (EPP), she has taken the decision to refrain from voting in plenary while serving as President of the European Parliament.

MEPs want Article 3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights to be amended to state that “everyone has the right to bodily autonomy, to free, informed, full and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and to all related healthcare services without discrimination, including access to safe and legal abortion”. They denounced the global erosion of women’s rights, particularly efforts to restrict sexual and reproductive health services and undermine gender equality, including in the EU.

The text of the Resolution urges member states to fully decriminalise abortion in line with the 2022 WHO guidelines, and to remove and combat obstacles to abortion. It calls on Poland and Malta to repeal their laws and other measures that ban and restrict it. MEPs condemned the fact that, in some member states, abortion is being denied by medical practitioners, and in some cases by entire medical institutions, on the basis of a ‘conscience’ clause, often in situations where any delay will endanger the patient’s life or health.

Healthcare, including sexual and reproductive health, is not an EU competence and falls exclusively under national powers. Changing the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to include abortion would therefore require unanimous agreement from all member states within the Council.

In a historic move, France became the first nation to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution, on 4th March, 2024.

Photo Derek French

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