Students for choice: we support decriminalisation of abortion in Malta

Given the hundreds of abortions happening in Malta each year, it makes no sense at all for students to become doctors without being properly informed when it comes to internationally accepted guidelines regarding the management of abortion | Essa Qasem, Mariah Zammit

Every year hundreds of women and girls in Malta have an abortion, mostly by ordering pills online given the worldwide pandemic restricting travel. Thanks to the efforts of the Voice for Choice coalition, the issue of access to abortion in the context of women’s rights has finally become one we can openly discuss. Now more than ever, when students have access to information from every corner in the world, we feel that it is imperative for students to have a voice in this discussion.

Students for Choice (S4C) is an initiative targeting the long overdue representation of students within the pro-choice movement in Malta. Our focus is the issue of Sexual Health and Reproductive Health (SHRH) coupled with the decriminalisation of abortion. Although our aims are not different from those of other pro-choice NGOs, we hope to offer an opportunity for students who claim to be pro-choice to step up and make a difference.

While readily expressing support for comprehensive sexual education and freely accessible contraception, fewer students openly support decriminalisation of abortion, mostly for fear of retribution.

As S4C, we ask for more than just raising awareness about these issues. We ask for changes in the educational system so that our youth are better equipped and well informed not only about their own bodies, but also on how to engage in safe and healthy relationships. We strongly believe that this would be a much more effective way of ensuring young people in Malta participate in safe sexual intercourse, as opposed to the traditional focus on abstinence adopted by the current ‘system of sexual education’ – if it can be called as such.

52% of Maltese youths are not using contraception, nor are they aware of the repercussions of unprotected sexual intercourse. The social stigma surrounding sexual health and abortion does not justify abandoning such an important aspect of our education.   

The demand for major curriculum reform should extend beyond sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing. Medical and nursing students, for example, should know how medical and surgical abortions are performed.

Given the hundreds of abortions happening in Malta each year, it makes no sense at all for students to become doctors without being properly informed when it comes to internationally accepted guidelines regarding the management of abortion. Our medical school should be preparing students to become global doctors; indeed, many enrolled students come from different countries and would be expected to return there to practice.

Why is this important? Every human has basic inalienable rights that must be afforded to them without discrimination in order for them to thrive and prosper. Women and girls in Malta are being robbed of this essential right through laws which dictate what they can and cannot do with their body. They are being forced to continue with their pregnancy, whether they like it or not, whatever their circumstances. There is no other medical or surgical procedure that any person in Malta is legally prohibited from having, provided it is medically indicated.

Yet pregnant persons with a fatal foetal anomaly are forced to give birth because of the current blanket ban on abortion. Criminalising a basic human right greatly undermines the lives of those personally involved, affording them lesser rights than their male counterparts. This essentially classifies them as second-class citizens.

As Students for Choice, we acknowledge the thirst for students to voice their opinions regarding the decriminalisation of abortion in Malta. Our objective is to provide a platform that unites the voice of all students who believe that women should have the right to decide what happens to their body.

Students for Choice are committed to advocating for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health as well as the decriminalisation of abortion. If you are in public or private post-secondary, undergraduate or postgraduate education and feel the same way, reach out to us on FB/instagram @s4cmalta, or on our email [email protected] We welcome any and all students from the age of 16 upwards, wherever/whatever you may be studying. Together we can make a difference.