The 24th of June 2021 marked another milestone for human rights. The European Parliament took a vote on a resolution that declares safe access to abortion as a human right. The resolution was passed with 378 votes in favour and 225 votes against. This resolution was proposed as a confrontation towards Member States that limit women’s rights, including Malta itself, as well as Poland.
Predrag Fred Matić, a Croatian Social MEP, drafted this resolution, stating that interference in accessing contraception, fertility treatments, maternity care and abortion is a breach of human rights. The noteworthy “conscience clause” was brought to the attention of many. The “conscience clause” is when a medical professional does not believe in the right to access abortion and prohibits abortion from taking place. The text states that prohibiting abortion on grounds of religion or conscience endangers women’s lives and rights.
The centre-right European People’s Party and the European Conservative and Reformists put forth two substitute texts to the one published by Matić, which stated that the access to abortion and reproductive services should be a choice made within each EU Member State and not imposed by EU law. Even though the Polish signed a petition called “Stop the Matić report”, this resolution was still approved by a qualified majority vote in the European Parliament. Matić stated how “this vote marks a new era in the European Union and the first real resistance to a regressive agenda that has trampled in women’s rights in Europe for years”.
According to a voting list published by the European Parliament, the majority of the voters against this resolution were part of the EPP group. This included the Group’s leader, Manfred Weber.
Cyrus Engerer, a Maltese MEP, elected on behalf of the Labour Party, was the only Maltese MEP that voted in favour of this resolution, as he stated that this report went beyond the access to abortion. Alfred Sant and Josianne Cutajar, both Maltese Labour MEPs, abstained from voting, whilst Nationalist MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa, joined by Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba, voted against this resolution during last Thursday’s vote.