Malta should ensure its ban on abortion does not deprive women of “a range of fundamental human rights”, according to the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Nils Muižnieks.
“From a thorough analysis of human rights standards and jurisprudence applicable to Council of Europe Member States, it is clear to me that women’s human rights cannot be protected without ensuring their effective access to safe and legal abortion care,” Mr Muižnieks writes in the Times of Malta.
He argues that new legislation is required to provide abortion care to women who request it “in early pregnancy and thereafter throughout pregnancy”. Such a law, Mr Muižnieks says, would protect women’s health and life and ensure freedom from ill-treatment.
“Malta’s total ban on abortion contradicts the norms of international human rights law, because it denies women a range of fundamental human rights. The Maltese authorities should remedy this situation,” he insisted.
"Thus, Malta’s total ban on abortion contradicts the norms of international human rights law, because it denies women a range of fundamental human rights. The Maltese authorities should remedy this situation."
He said there were four main areas where the Maltese authorities should intervene.
"As a starting point, political leaders and opinion makers should promote a debate in which every individual or organisation has the possibility of expressing their views without fearing stigma or negative repercussions.
"This would pave the way for lawmakers to amend the current legislation to bring it in line with human rights standards. A new law should ensure abortion care is available on a woman’s request in early pregnancy and thereafter throughout pregnancy to protect women’s health and life and ensure freedom from ill-treatment.
"The next step should be to ensure that no practical, financial or other barrier prevents women from accessing affordable abortion care services.
Finally, these measures should be complemented by others such as ensuring full access to comprehensive sexuality education and modern contraception, also because this will help prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies."
Mr Muižnieks said women have the human right to a safe reproductive life, free from coercion. I hope that Malta’s legislation will soon conform with this reality.