Sunday protest calling for over-the-counter distribution of morning-after pill

Gender Equality Malta says requiring prescription defeats purpose of emergency contraception

Forcing a woman to go and see a doctor in order to purchase the morning-after pill defeats the purpose of emergency contraception in a situation where time is of the essence, Gender Equality Malta has said.

“Due to social stigma or indeed in cases of rape, a patient may take longer to seek help and the added waiting period further decreases the efficiency of the morning after pill,” the NGO said.

“This may also give doctors the power to refuse to provide a prescription based on religious or moral beliefs, despite the fact that recent research has shown there is nothing to suggest that the morning after pill is abortive.”

As it reconvenes from the summer recess, parliament will this evening be present with a report by three parliamentary committees recommending that the morning-after pill is dispensed only against a doctor’s prescription. The recommendation follows a proposal by the Medical Council, who also said that the principle of conscientious objector should also be applied.

The Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisation has expressed its disagreement with the committee’s decision, arguing that it was a woman’s right to have more control over their lives and bodies.

An online petition launched on Saturday entitled ‘equal rights for women in Malta’, addressed to members of parliament, has garnered 1,141 supporters. The signatories to the petition argue that the committee’s recommendations “are deeply detrimental to the well-being of women in our society, and disregard all respect for female bodily autonomy”.

Following the increased opposition to the committee’s recommendations, GEM will be hosting a protest in Valletta: ‘Emerġenza Għal Raġuni’.

A stand will be set up at 10am with the aim of raising awareness on the morning after pill as well as signatures for a new petition will be collected.

“This will send a message that the Women's Rights Foundation is not alone in wanting change,” the NGO said.

A short walk will take place at midday, from St George’s Square to Parliament Anyone attending is encouraged to bring placards and to share the hashtag: #EmergenzaGhalRaguni #EmergencyForAReason.

The Life Network Foundation Malta has also issued its position on the matter. The pro-life movement has been vociferous against the introduction of the morning after pill, claiming that emergency contraception disregards human life.

“Life starts at conception. The word ‘abortifacient’, as used by international bodies, deliberately disregards the first two weeks of life prior to implantation, resulting in a play on words that is unfair as well as misleading,” it has claimed.

The movement warned that an authority might be deemed guilty of committing a crime if a license is issued for a morning after pill which has “abortifacient properties”.  

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