Malta may not be represented at the Council of Europe (CoE) when it meets next month to discuss a resolution calling on member states to decriminalise abortion if they have not already done so.

The CoE resolution, presented by the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, proposes that women must be offered the conditions of a free and enlightened choice.

It invites member states to lift restrictions that hinder access to safe abortion by creating the appropriate conditions for health, medical and psychological care and offering suitable financial cover.

The report is to be discussed during a plenary session between April 14 and 18 but, as with all other CoE resolutions, would not be legally binding if approved.

Justice and Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici said yesterday that if Parliament is not reconvened by the time the resolution is debated, Malta would not be able to have its representative at the plenary once the representative has to be appointed by Parliament.

If Parliament is convened by then, the issue, Dr Mifsud Bonnici said, would be given importance and a representative would be sent to present Malta's views on the matter.

He pointed out that, since this was a Council of Europe and not an EU resolution, it would not be binding on Malta even if it were approved, as was likely.

Malta would retain its stand against abortion, so much as that, in the case of the EU, it had a protocol ensuring that no EU treaty or legislation shall affect the application of national legislation on abortion in Malta.

Malta was unsure about a number of premises made in the CoE resolution, including the statement that abortion was an issue of women's choice.

Malta, Dr Mifsud Bonnici insisted, was looking more at strengthening support structures for it believed it made more sense to have the necessary tools to assist people facing certain difficulties.

It absolutely did not see abortion as a solution.

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