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Updated | Sexual health webpage updated to remove references to the Catholic Church

The Health Department’s sexual health webpage was updated this morning to describe emergency contraception as ‘illegal’ and to remove references to the Catholic Church

miriam
Miriam Dalli
17 June 2016, 2:29pm
Last updated on 17 June 2016, 3:49pm
A judicial protest filed by the Women’s Rights Foundation prompted updates to the Health Department’s website on sexual health in a bid to describe emergency contraception as “illegal” and remove any references to the Catholic Church.

The changes to the text weren’t plain sailing:  what should have been “a simple addition of a sentence” resulted in the elimination of the full information, leaving the webpage describing emergency contraception as “unlicensed and illegal”.

Up until today, the health department’s website never described emergency contraception – also known as the morning after the pill – as being illegal.

The latest version of the webpage
The latest version of the webpage
A screenshot of the 'old version' of the same webpage
A screenshot of the 'old version' of the same webpage
Following the 'update', the emergency contraception on the sexualhealth.gov.mt simply reads that it is 'illegal' and unlicensed.
Following the 'update', the emergency contraception on the sexualhealth.gov.mt simply reads that it is 'illegal' and unlicensed.
“We started receiving calls on emergency contraception and we felt the need to make the information on the page more clear. We did not intend on removing all of the text,” Charmaine Gauci, outgoing head of the health promotion unit, told MaltaToday.

Shortly after the authorities’ attention was drawn to the fact that the information had gone missing, the Health Department restored the original text. This time, however, references to the Catholic Church were also removed.

In its original text, the Health Department said: “The Catholic Church regards any mechanism that blocks or inhibits the implantation of a fertilised ovum an abortion, therefore the morning-after pill is considered as an abortifacient.”

Before and after: The original version made reference to the Catholic Church before it was updated today.
Before and after: The original version made reference to the Catholic Church before it was updated today.
The sentence now reads: “Any mechanism that blocks or inhibits the implantation of a fertilised ovum an abortion, therefore forms of the morning-after pill is considered as an abortifacient.”

The Women’s Rights Foundation (WRF) has filed a judicial protest calling on the government to allow the licensing of emergency contraception. As things stand, a ban on emergency contraception discriminates and breaches the right of women, WRF has argued.

On its Facebook page, WRF called on the health department to explain what prompted the page update.
“Snapshot of the sexualhealth.gov.mt entry on emergency contraception, one taken yesterday and one today, with all the information previously available, missing,” the WRF said. “Will someone from the health department kindly explain why is withholding information from the public a good idea and what prompted the page ‘update’?”

The World Health Organisation describes emergency contraception as referring to methods of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy in the first five days after sexual intercourse. It is intended for use following unprotected intercourse, contraceptive failure or misuse (such as forgotten pills, or breakage or slippage of condoms), rape or coerced unprotected sex.

“Emergency contraception is effective only in the first few days following intercourse before the ovum is released from the ovary and before the sperm fertilizes the ovum. Emergency contraception cannot interrupt an established pregnancy or harm a developing embryo,” WHO states.

miriam
Miriam Dalli joined MaltaToday.com.mt in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...