Labour MEP Alfred Sant is calling for an open debate on abortion, days after he abstained from voting on a report identifying abortion as a human right.

The former prime minister warned that while the debate should respect prevalent cultural and behavioural norms, these should not override inalienable rights.

Fellow labour MEP Cyrus Engerer was the only Maltese MEP to vote in favour of the non-binding report by S&D group member Fred Matić.

Among other things, it calls for universal access to legal and safe abortion, maternal health care and sexual education across the EU.

Malta has the strictest abortion laws in the EU with Doctors for Choice estimating that at least 300 women in Malta have abortions every year, either by obtaining abortion pills or travelling to countries where abortion is legal. 

On Monday, Sant said in a statement he had expressed support for the principles upheld in the Matić report on the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU, adding that an open debate on abortion was needed.

He said that projecting people who were in favour of abortion as heartless or amoral made no sense and was hypocritical.

Addressing a European Parliament plenary session, Sant said that the inalienable rights of all women to bodily integrity and autonomous decision-making should be universally recognised.

“From such a point of departure, the complex dilemmas that abortion issues raise should be resolved by communities following an open and tolerant debate. 

"The debate should respect prevalent cultural and behavioural norms but not let them override inalienable rights. It should be carried out on a national basis. The EU should have little to no say in such matters which is why I abstained on the final vote.”

Sant went on to say that Malta had implemented "the most radical changes" in favour of LGTBQ rights without any EU pressure.

"So let it be with abortion," he told the European Parliament. 

Sant also welcomed other elements in the text of the resolution, such as the call for universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and for enhanced use of emerging technologies for treatments and diagnostic methods. 




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