‘Malta abortion ban breaching our human rights’: 188 women file judicial protest

188 women file judicial protest against health ministry to not only remove Malta’s blanket ban on abortion, but also to decriminalise and legalise the procedure

Lawyer and WRF director Lara Dimitrijevic and Andrea Dibben
Lawyer and WRF director Lara Dimitrijevic and Andrea Dibben

The Women’s Rights Foundation has filed a judicial protest in court this afternoon, calling for the decriminalisation of abortion on the grounds that the State’s refusal to decriminalise abortion is leading to women being subjected to human rights violations.

The judicial protest, which was filed on behalf of more than 188 potential mothers, calls upon the health minister, the parliamentary secretary for equality and reforms, and the State Advocate, to not only remove Malta’s blanket ban on abortion, but also to decriminalise and legalise the procedure.

The protest, signed by lawyers Lara Dimitrijevic, Stephanie Caruana, Rebecca Attard Muscat and Andrew Sciberras, states that the prohibition was having a direct impact on the plaintiffs’ quality of life, by depriving them of the right to make decisions about their health, family, future and their general well-being, as well as precluding them of their right to bodily autonomy.

It was also precluding them from accessing their health care, said the organisation, “given that if for any reason, they would want to terminate their future pregnancies, they cannot access medical health care in the fear that they would be criminalised and that they neither can seek medical attention from the doctors of their choice since they, too, can potentially be criminalised as professionals…”

There was also the possibility that women who ask medical professionals for assistance in terminating their pregnancies could be reported to the police by medical professionals, said the plaintiffs.

“Abortion care can be accessed in a safe manner by those that have the financial means to travel outside Malta to countries where it is legal, whilst those that do not have the financial means, can only access abortion care in clandestine and illegal manner, by buying the pills online and with the continuous fear that they would face criminal proceedings if caught,” the judicial protest reads.

It states that the prohibition of abortion in Malta was “further exposing the protestants to inhuman and degrading treatment,” because those women who have terminated their pregnancies were now living in fear of prosecution and humiliation, which fear was detrimental to their mental health.

The only option currently available to women in Malta, who are seeking an abortion, is to “access clandestine measures.”

Highlighting the fact that abortion care is available in all of the other EU member states, the plaintiffs argued that the prohibition was also discriminatory on the basis of sex and gender, as it treated women “in an unequal and disproportionate manner, more so when the constitution safeguards the principles of equality,” calling it a violation of their fundamental rights and by extension, discrimination against women and people that reside in Malta.

The women described the absence of protection and access to medical care in such cases as “tantamount to a breach of fundamental human rights of women,” as safeguarded by the European Charter of Human Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights Covenant, Disability Rights Convention, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Covenant, Convention of Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, ICPD Programme of Action, Beijing Platform for Action, as well their right to private life, discrimination and exposing them to inhuman and degrading treatment in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is also an integral part of Maltese law.