European Parliament’s New President Roberta Metsola Has a History of Protecting the Unborn

The Catholic mother of four is the first woman to lead the international body in 20 years.

Roberta Metsola addresses a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Jan. 19.
Roberta Metsola addresses a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Jan. 19. (photo: Bertrand Guay / AFP via Getty Images)

ROME — Roberta Metsola, a Maltese Catholic politician who has a history of opposing abortion was elected the youngest ever president of the European Parliament on Tuesday. 

The married mother of four, who was elected in a landslide to become the first woman to lead the Parliament in 20 years, has often voted for pro-life resolutions in a political arena often dominated by pro-abortion activists. 

She replaces David Sassoli, a center-left Italian politician who died suddenly this month aged 65 and was praised by Church leaders, including Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna.

As Parliament president, Metsola, who turned 43 on the day of her election, will lead the European Union’s only directly elected body. Its responsibilities include adopting EU legislation, supervising other EU institutions, and preparing an annual budget.

A lawyer and center-right member of the European Parliament (MEP), Metsola joined other Maltese MEPs in 2015 to declare “we remain categorically against abortion.” She also voted in 2020 against a resolution on EU action on COVID-19 that described abortion as a human right.

But last year Metsola supported an EU resolution condemning an pro-life law in Poland that led to a near-total abortion ban. “I promoted it and I presented it,” she told reporters on Tuesday. “That is exactly what I will do with all the positions that were taken in all this area in all the member states.”

“My position is that of the European Parliament,” she added. “And on this issue, this European Parliament, on all sexual and reproductive health rights, it has been unambiguous, it has repeatedly called for these rights to be better protected.”

Abortion continues to be illegal in Metsola’s native Malta. But its legislative positions on other key Catholic social teachings have weakened in recent years: It legalized divorce in 2011, introduced emergency contraception in 2016, and legalized same-sex civil marriage in 2017.

Similarly, Metsola in 2014 led the European People’s Party of center-right MEPs in supporting a non-binding “EU roadmap against homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity” — an initiative opposed by pro-life organizations such as “Manif pour tous” in France. 

In her inaugural speech as president of the European Parliament, Metsola said, “To our LGBTIQ communities; to those still discriminated against because of their religion, skin color or gender identity; to all those who believe in the promise of Europe, this House matters — and when people look to us to defend our values they will find an ally.”

At the same time, she pledged to stand up for Europe’s “common values of democracy, dignity, justice, solidarity, equality, rule of law and fundamental rights,” and to “recapture” a sense of “belief to make our shared space safer, fairer, more just and more equal.”

In other priorities outlined in her speech, Metsola spoke of the need to combat climate change, defend the EU project, fight for justice, and commit to “more diversity, gender equality, guaranteeing women’s rights.” She has also supported migrant rights. 

To those who know her well, Metsola is well-suited to the role of president. “She is a bridge-builder, a pontifex in the truest sense of the word,” a source told the Register. “She’s a very good Catholic wife and mother, a rare breed of woman.” 

Also the fact that she is Maltese, despite its weakening Catholic culture, “probably makes her more instinctively pro-life,” said Benjamin Harnwell, who served as chief of staff to former British Conservative MEP Nirj Deva from 2005 to 2010. 

“A lot can be done in the European Parliament,” he told the Register. “But the problem is that the pro-abortion lobby, although not numerically the majority, is by far the most engaged. The pro-death lobby is 100% more militant than we are and has more conviction. That’s why they win.”

He added there is “intense pressure to conform, to back down to obtain consensus, and you need real backbone to go against that.”