Pro-life advocates in Malta raised concerns this week about a new bill that they fear could covertly legalize abortion in the predominantly Catholic country.
The Times of Malta reports the legislation in question is the Gender-based Violence and Domestic Violence Bill, which came from the Council of Europe Convention for protecting women from violence.
In a statement, the country’s Democratic Party said the bill could decriminalize abortions in Malta. The pointed to language in the bill about criminalizing forced abortions but not abortions that women consent to.
“Parties shall take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that the following intentional conducts are criminalised: (a) performing an abortion on a woman without her prior and informed consent …” the bill states.
Here’s more from the report:
The party explained that in terms of Malta’s criminal code, performing an abortion on a woman was an offence both if it is without “her prior and informed consent” and even if it is done with her consent.
The article in the new Bill however, led to the understanding that legislative measures to ensure that abortion was criminalised would only be taken if the abortion was performed without the prior and informed consent of the woman.
This, it insisted, was unacceptable and abortion should continue to be a crime even if the woman consented.
Malta should have made its reservations to this clause of the convention, PD said.
The party also complained that in terms of the Bill, the unborn child would no longer be considered to be part of a family unit or household.
The government responded by calling the claims unfounded.
“Article 39(a) of the Istanbul Convention dealing with forced abortions and forced sterilisations has been part of the Laws of Malta since June 2014 … yet abortion remains illegal, contrary to the PD’s insinuations,” the government said in a statement. “The recasting process that Parliament is currently discussing will not change that; instead, it will protect all persons who fall victim to gender-based violence and sanction perpetrators appropriately.”
The small Mediterranean nation is one of the few countries left in Europe that protects unborn babies’ right to life. Ireland, which also is under intense pressure to legalize abortion, has a vote on its pro-life constitutional amendment slated for the summer of 2018. Malta appears to be one of the latest targets of abortion activists.
A few years ago, international abortion supporters accused Malta of “torture” because the country protects unborn babies’ lives and prohibits abortions. The accusation came from the International Commission of Jurists, a human rights organization, in a report to the Human Rights Council.