For standing up for unborn babies’ right to life, Malta is being accused of cruelty toward women.
In a report Monday, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic demanded that Malta legalize abortion on demand and curtail conscience rights for pro-life medical workers, according to the Malta Independent.
“It is time for the authorities to repeal provisions criminalizing abortion, develop comprehensive regulation of women’s access to legal and safe abortion and improve the availability of sexual and reproductive health services,” Mijatovic wrote.
She likened Malta’s protections for unborn babies to torture and claimed its pro-life laws deny women basic human rights.
Mijatovic also advocated for restricting the conscience rights of medical workers who refuse to abort unborn babies. According to the Independent, her report called for “safeguarding access to health care in the light of refusals to provide care on grounds of conscience.”
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The Maltese government quickly rejected Mijatovic’s recommendations. Responding to her report, the nation’s leaders affirmed their support for sexual and reproductive health services but rejected the notion that these services include an “intrinsic right” to abort an unborn baby, according to Malta Today.
They pointed out that their pro-life laws do not put women’s lives in jeopardy. According to the report:
… in its reply to the Commissioner’s remarks, government noted that there have been no registered maternal deaths or complications following abortion over the past 10 years.
Government insisted that no person requiring treatment is ever denied treatment or turned away. “Should the mother’s life be in danger, all efforts are made to save both lives, and the double effect principle applies (such as in ectopic pregnancy).”
Maltese leaders also emphasized that Council of Europe member states have the right to make their own laws about abortion.
“Whilst Malta is fully committed to providing access to reproductive healthcare, and is working to improve these services, … Malta does not agree with the interpretation that the right to sexual and reproductive health services includes an intrinsic right to abortion,” the government responded. “It remains Member State competence to decide whether abortion should form part of a range of sexual and reproductive health services at a national level, in accordance with the ICPD Programme of Action.”
Malta has resisted international pressure to legalize abortion for years. In 2013, pro-abortion groups also accused Malta of “torture” because its laws protect unborn babies’ lives. The accusation came from the International Commission of Jurists, a human rights organization, in a report to the Human Rights Council. It also claimed Malta is unnecessarily endangering women’s lives by prohibiting abortions.
Until recently, a number of European countries protected unborn babies by prohibiting abortions. However, Ireland abandoned its pro-life laws in 2018 and Northern Ireland was forced to legalize abortion 2019 by the British Parliament.
Abortions are illegal in almost all cases in Poland, but Malta is the only European country that fully prohibits abortions.