The Malta Independent 9 May 2021, Sunday

Abortion: Helena Dalli says her speech was ‘misinterpreted’ by pro-life news website

Neil Camilleri Saturday, 12 October 2019, 09:39 Last update: about 3 years ago

European Commissioner-designate Helena Dalli has insisted that she was misinterpreted by a pro-life news website, adding that she will respect Member States in their choice of abortion legislation.

Lifesite News last week said Helena Dalli had promised the European Parliament that Malta would embrace abortion. It made reference to part of her hearing in Brussels, during which she was asked on universal reproductive rights.

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Dalli, who has been nominated for the equality portfolio, was asked by Irène Tolleret, a French MEP and member of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM), on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The commissioner-designate replied by affirming that women’s rights are human rights. “I am a committed feminist and you have my word that I will do all possible in order to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights. I will work with the Task Force to mainstream SRHR, especially in dialogue with the Health Commissioner,” he told the MEP.

Dalli further added that “We also need to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on women’s health and universal access to sexual and reproductive care and family planning and education.”

Contacted by this newspaper, Dalli said the LifeSiteNews.com article “intentionally misrepresented what was stated in the European Parliament as the website has done in the past, both with regard to my work and that of others.”

She insisted, however, that she was not speaking for the Maltese government. “Indeed, in the context of my hearing in the European Parliament prior to its approval of my nomination, I had no power to make any promise on behalf of the Maltese Government or any other government. Instead, I elaborated my vision of the role of Commissioner for Equality that was entrusted to me, and answered the questions raised by Members of the European Parliament.”

Dalli also told The Malta Independent that she had “reiterated the separation of competences between the European Union and its Member States and the fact that I will respect Member States in the choice of legislation and policy that regulate this matter at the national level.”

In the past, a similar commitment and distinction was advanced by Commissioner-designate for Health and Consumer Affairs Tonio Borg when asked directly on the matter, she added.

The Maltese government has insisted on several occasions that it does not have a mandate to introduce abortion in Malta. It has also argued that the decision on whether to introduce abortion or not is one that should be taken at a national, not European level.

Over the past few years there have been calls for a mature debate on abortion in Malta. Just two weeks ago, pro-life and pro-abortion rallies were held concurrently in Valletta.

After the grilling last week, Dalli reportedly secured the two-thirds needed for her nomination to be approved.

Dalli is expected to be officially approved, along with the rest of the new European Commissioners, on 24 October, in Strasbourg.

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