Malta’s debate around abortion is here and the Labour Party has issued a wishy-washy reply, refusing to take a stand on the taboo topic. Yet, more than 40 years ago, their former leader and party icon Dom Mintoff was ready for a proper discussion on the medical procedure.
Marlene Farrugia, the independent MP who has submitted a private members bill calling for the decriminalisation of abortion in Malta, shared a Times of Malta article from Saturday 17th May 1980 revealing Mintoff’s position. The article read:
“Another subject touched up by Mr Mintoff, likely to cause confusion in the minds of Catholic parents as regards moral principles, was abortion and birth control. The Prime Minister made the astonishing declaration that such issues should be determined solely by the women themselves because this was their exclusive field – ‘if women wanted more such rights it was up to them,’ he said.”
Mintoff, who heralded progressive reforms in the country, had previously discussed abortion. Dominic Fenech, a historian and former Labour Party official, has said that Mintoff passed a resolution demanding that a Labour Party government must never charge people who have received or carried out an abortion.
He is not even the only former party leader to come out in favour of abortion. Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who is the only Labour Party figure to rival Mintoff’s popularity, has said that he would be willing to break the law if his daughter asked him to help out with an abortion.
“I’m personally not in favour of abortion but the more time passes, the more I realise that I cannot decide for women,” he said when interviewed on L-Erbgha Fost il-Gimgha. “I agree with a discussion shifting towards the right of women to choose. This isn’t a black or white issue for me, it’s an evolution of thought and perhaps I’ll think differently tomorrow.”
Today’s Labour government, who has also been a beacon of progressive discussion, has been noticeably hesitant on this matter, despite the proclamations of their acclaimed former leader.
The party has disassociated itself from the bill, claiming that it “chokes” debate on abortion, drawing a line between ‘society’ and ‘Parliament’.
It went a step further, advising people to discuss abortion in an open and respectful manner, but without giving a practical example of what this discussion should look like.
In the party’s eyes, if MPs start discussing abortion, then they will “monopolise” the debate. Rather than take action, the party is waiting for public consensus on whether decriminalisation is right or wrong. It is a waiting game hundreds of women in Malta cannot afford.
“For the benefit of the Labour camp in particular: Editorial Times of Malta 17th May 1990,” Farrugia wrote.
Maybe some might listen.
What do you think of Mintoff’s statement?