The United Nations’ human rights body has weighed in on the abortion debate simmering throughout Malta, calling on the country to ensure the safe access to abortion and post-abortion services for adolescent girls; while also calling for the end of the criminalisation of the practice “in all circumstances”.
“[This will make] sure that their views are heard and given due consideration as part of the decision-making process,” the UNHCR’s Committee on the Rights of the Child wrote its concluding observations after two meetings in Malta.
The report does note that while the state has provided “guidance, and support, and counselling services to pregnant girls”, the criminalisation of abortion remains a primary area of concern.
“[Abortion is criminal] with no exception, including in cases when the pregnant girl’s life or health is at risk or when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act such as rape or incest.”
As it stands, a woman who willingly gets an abortion would be liable to a prison term for 18 months to three years. Three women in Malta have been charged with performing an abortion on themselves since 2000.
A comprehensive sexual and reproductive health policy for adolescents should also be implemented to ensure that such education is part of the mandatory adolescent girls and boys, “with special attention on preventing early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.”
“Ensure that adequate sexual and reproductive health services are available for adolescents, in particular, access to modern contraception methods,” the UN said.
The report, which was submitted on 31 May, comes at a time when the debate surrounding abortion begins to reach the national discussion
Over the weekend, 670 doctors came together to form Malta’s first anti-abortion group of medical professionals.
Counting President George Vella as a member, the group was formed in direct response after a group of pro-choice doctors banded together in hopes that the debate over the ever taboo subject could begin.
Speaking to Lovin Malta after the group was formed, Doctors for Choice’s Alexander Clayman explained that ‘draconian’ legislation was treating women who get abortions as criminals.
“Do you actually want to send young Maltese women to prison for getting abortions?” Clayman asked.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that he was open to a debate on the issue, even though his party and himself have long declared their opposition to the topic.
On the other hand, the PN has instead decided to launch a forceful criticism against the practice, using the issue as a cornerstone in their unsuccessful European Parliament campaign.