The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Dunja Mijatović, opted to mark Women’s Day by pointing out that “a few states still maintain highly-restrictive legal frameworks which prevent or limit women’s access to safe and legal abortion care, and criminalise assistance given to it”.

It is evident Ms Mijatović’s mission to protect human rights includes women but not human beings that might be in their wombs. The unborn, it seems, is none of her concern. More bizarrely, given the office she occupies, to her the unborn do not enjoy human rights.

“Refusals to provide abortion care by medical professionals on grounds of conscience have become a serious barrier in countries in Europe where authorities have failed to regulate this sector or to enforce existing regulation sufficiently to guarantee availability,” she wrote in her message.

She also reported that several countries are in the process of reforming their legislation on sexual and reproductive health to meet their human rights obligations. “Instead of stagnating, we need to move forward on women’s sexual and reproductive rights,” Ms Mijatović said.

Maltese law makes abortion a criminal offence both in the case of a person who is found guilty of causing the miscarriage of any woman with child and even in the case of a woman who procures her own miscarriage or who consents to the use of the means by which the miscarriage is procured.

Both the Labour and Nationalist parties declare they are against abortion. The Democratic Party, which has two MPs in Opposition, says it is pro-life, pro-choice but anti-abortion.

As often happens when so-called pro-choice advocates debate the issue, they prefer to avoid using the term abortion and instead speak about “women’s sexual and reproductive rights”, terms that Ms Mijatović also uses in her message.

The Times of Malta has already declared editorially that abortion is murder, no matter how you package it, most especially as a ‘reproductive right’.

It is in full agreement with what President designate George Vella wrote in  a Talking Point on this newspaper last year: “It is one thing being educated and informed about all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, which is one’s right, and with which we all agree wholeheartedly, but promoting abortion as a reproductive right simply does not follow any human rights logic.”

Ms Mijatović and the UK-based Abortion Support Network, which has just announced it would be extending its services to residents in Malta and Gibraltar, should take note of that.

“Blessings on the hand of women! Angels guard its strength and grace. In the palace, cottage, hovel, oh, no matter where the place; would that never storms assailed it, rainbows ever gently curled, for the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world,” American poet William Ross Wallace (1819-1881) wrote.

It is a powerful description of women’s influential abilities and power. It is a celebration of womanhood and of the maternal instinct, qualities – virtues, even – that should be promoted on Women’s Day.

Abortion, it bears repeating, points at the moral compass of the country, lacking as it is. This is not a matter of individual morality because responsibility for the unborn, the weakest citizens of all, is on everybody’s shoulders.

The quest for life, not death, is the natural instinct. 

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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