The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Pro-choice lobby looking to mount constitutional challenge

Sunday, 16 June 2019, 11:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

More than 700 members of the Malta Pro-Choice Discussion Group are looking to set up a fund with the goal of financing a case before the Constitutional Court, sources have informed this newspaper.

The debate over legalizing abortion has recently resurfaced, with a number of pro-choice groups springing up, along with other existing groups also ramping up the rhetoric. This has also provoked a reaction from more conservative segments of society, which have founded groups of their own in response.

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Doctors for Choice and Doctors for Life are prime examples of this recent rush to get their viewpoint heard.

The group is set to ‘secret’, meaning that one may only search for, find, and join the group if specifically invited to do so by a member or admin of said group.

Screenshots provided insight into the group and the plan to mount the aforementioned constitutional challenge.

The group administrators include Maltese and foreign nationals, local activists and potentially fake profiles.

Focusing on the screenshots of the post suggesting court action, the original poster (OP) notes that “by far the most common cases which today come up before the Constitutional Court are cases concerning alleged violations of fundamental human rights, whether in terms of the provisions of the Constitution or in terms of the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The OP went on to say that out of the 118 cases referred to, he doubts “that there was one which dealt with the woman’s rights to her body, as guaranteed by the Constitution,” to which he concluded that “it is time to challenge the law, before the Constitutional Court, in much the same way the above cases were instituted”.

After suggesting the setting up of a special fund for litigation costs to challenge the ‘anti-abortion law’, the OP explained that he “would love to see someone in Malta who is of good reputation, such as Lara Dimitrijevic, Andrea Dibben, Raisa Galea, Cami Appelgren (and others of their calibre), managing such a fund.”

Lara Dimitrijevic is the founder of the Women’s Rights Foundation and a lawyer; Andrea Dibben is the chairperson of the Woman’s Rights Foundation; Raisa Galea is a local activist and editor of online magazine Isles of the Left; and Cami Appelgren is a local activist who unsuccessfully ran for European Parliament last month.

“I strongly believe that a court challenge is the only practical way to settle this issue.”

The OP also warned that if not done now, then “there is a high probability that the other side – the pro-lifers – will get their way and have protection of the embryo enshrined in the Constitution.”

“Don’t underestimate these people … they are determined! We must not let that happen!”

 

Inhumane and degrading treatment

In another screenshot attached to the same post, Dimitrijevic posted a comment saying that “a constitutional case is definitely something we considered. We are good to go when a case comes along.”

This newspaper contacted Dimitrijevic, who said that “Malta is party to a number of international treaties and despite derogations on matters related to abortion, it does not mean that a total ban on abortion is not a breach of fundamental rights.

“A total ban and no option to access safe and legal abortion would mean that a person is forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will.”

Focusing on the constitutional aspect, she explained that “this goes [against] the right to privacy in terms the European Convention of Human Rights and such total ban can even be tantamount to inhumane and degrading treatment.”

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