by Dr Jamie A Grech
The appreciation of women’s rights are a core part of the pro-choice movement – each and every debate between pro-choice and ‘pro-life’* camps raises the question of human rights entitlement. But what does this mean for minors, for little girls? Where do our children stand in this debate?
November 20th marks Universal Children’s Day, as decreed by the United Nations, of which Malta is a member. 60 years on from the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration of Rights of the Child, and 30 years on from the UN General Assembly adopting the Convention of the Rights of the Child, this year’s Universal Children’s Day is all the more significant. This day represents the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history – a treaty which has helped transform children’s lives around the world. But children’s rights are not yet fully respected in Malta.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) drafted in 1948 refers to a ‘right to life’ in Article 3. This right to life is further discussed in the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s General Comment on the Right to Life (2018), which clearly states that access to abortive services must be provided by the state, and condemns persecution of those seeking abortive services as also being in contempt of such rights. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CCPR/CCPR_C_GC_36.pdf
The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) also reaffirms the right to healthcare services inclusive of family-planning services – this represents a further human rights violation in Malta. https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cedaw.aspx
Children’s rights are often overlooked in this discussion, as the impacts of pregnancies aren’t generally considered when it comes to minors. But do children’s rights really come into this debate?
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child references a child’s right to life in Article 6. As we’ve already stated, the right to life includes access to comprehensive healthcare inclusive of universal access to abortive services. The local inability to provide such holistic and comprehensive healthcare to children constitutes yet another human rights violation.
What about the local situation?
It’s no secret that the majority of specialty training programmes in Malta follow prestigious Royal College examinations and curricula, the former of which are often required for promotion and career progression. Medical trainees sit examinations for membership of the the Royal College of Physicians, surgical trainees for membership of the Royal College of Surgeons, Obstetrics and Gynaecology trainees for membership of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and so on.
As far as children go, child and adolescent health trainees sit membership examinations of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), which itself supports and endorses good paediatric practice that respects the Convention on the Rights of the Child. https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/rights-child
Ultimately, it is clear that comprehensive healthcare including safe access to abortion is both a human right and a child’s right, and is recommended by the esteemed and respected UN and RCPCH - whether or not this is respected locally by the professional community is another matter entirely.
* The opposite of pro-choice is ‘anti-choice’, and the opposite of ‘pro-life’ is ‘anti-life’. All doctors are pro-life.
Dr Jamie A Grech is a Child and Adolescent Health Trainee