[WATCH] 'This is power': Hundreds rally to legalise abortion in Malta

Activists chanted 'my body, my choice' and 'safe, free and legal' as they walked through Valletta for Malta's yearly pro-choice rally

Photo: Lara Calleja
Photo: Lara Calleja

Hundreds marched through the streets of Valletta in favour of legalising abortion in Malta.

Activists chanted “my body, my choice” and “safe, free and legal” while holding placards and banners with pro-choice slogans.

At the very front of the march, activists held up a purple banner, reading “Safe and legal abortion in Malta”.

Further in the crowd, another white banner read “abortion is an essential service”.

The crowd walked from Castille down through Merchant Street, eventually walking back towards Parliament Building for a round of speeches at Hastings Garden.

Women's rights activist Lara Dimitrijevic (Photo: Lara Calleja)
Women's rights activist Lara Dimitrijevic (Photo: Lara Calleja)

Women’s rights activist Lara Dimitrijevic siad that abortion is not an easy procedure. “No one wakes up one day and decides to just get an abortion, as some extremists insinuate,” she said.

“As long as the law remains as is, and as long as women continue to reach out for help, and as long as women and medical professionals continue to be criminalised, we will continue to rally and continue to speak out. And we will simply not stop.”

Moviment Graffitti activist Claria Cutajar (Photo: Lara Calleja)
Moviment Graffitti activist Claria Cutajar (Photo: Lara Calleja)

“Malta is the only country in the European Union where abortion is banned under all circumstances,” Claria Cutajar from Moviment Graffitti pointed out.  

“What other health service is against the law? Abortion should be legal, accessible, local and free. No one should be forced to continue a pregnancy against their will.”

Emily Galea from Young Progressive Beings insisted that abortion is a medical procedure, and in some cases is the only thing that stands in the way of saving someone’s life.

“Women in Malta have had to resort to illegal and sometimes unsafe abortions, risking their lives in the process,” she said.

“I may be tired, I’m also angry. And until we get those rights, I will continue being angry.”

Emily Galea from Young Progressive Beings (Photo: Lara Calleja)
Emily Galea from Young Progressive Beings (Photo: Lara Calleja)

Irish activist Bernie Linnane started with a message of solidarity to women in Iran who are protesting the mandatory hijab after the death of Mahsa Amini.

She listed through several countries who have recently legalised abortion, including Ireland, Gibraltar and San Marino.

“This is a snowball that is rolling, and not stopping,” she said. “I hope the next time I’m here abortion will have be legalised in so many more countries and be so much closer to being legalised in Malta.”

Prof Pam Lowe from the University of Birmingham addressed the crowd afterwards. “Be brave. Nobody ever got their rights from not being brave.”

“And be bold,” she continued. “Have these conversations. The more we say the word ‘abortion’ the more people start to think about it than assume they know.”

Essa Qasem from Students for Choice gave a brief comment. “This is a great day for us to be out and expressing ourselves and adding something to the movement.”

Aleksandar Dimitrijevic from Men against Violence laid the argument forward on why men should be pro-choice.

“On a personal level, every man has women and girls in their lives who might need abortion care in their life. That should be reason enough.”

“We need more men to understand that denying access to abortion is a type of gender-based violence,” he continued.

“The right to freely choose the timing and spacing of pregnancies, and the right to terminate them, is an essential part of sexual reproductive health.”

Christopher Barbara on behalf of Doctors for Choice mentioned that the group opened a family-planning advisory service that provides information on all kinds of reproductive options, including how to access an abortion.

He said that the service attracted 1,200 different people in Malta since it was set up. “These are people form all walks of life,” he said, some of which were underage, abused, had genetic disorders, were mothers who already had children.

Isabel Stabile, a pro-choice gynaecologist, brought a pack of abortion pills with her to the rally. To show how harmless the procedure is, she took the pill in front of the crowd.

“These three are the pills. What you do is you take them out of the package and you put it under your tongue. You leave it there for about half an hour until it dissolves. Once it dissolves, you spit out the rest. Then you go and take some painkillers. […] Somewhere between two or four hours later your cramps will start, and your bleeding will start. And you will also start crying because you know you’re finally beginning the end of what you really didn’t want happening.”