[WATCH] Minister non-committal on emergency contraception for rape victims

Plans are in hand for a new facility for victims of sexual assault but Health Minister Chris Fearne will not commit to a date by when emergency contraception will be made available to rape victims at Mater Dei

Health Minister Chris Fearne would not commit to a date by which the morning-after will be made available to rape victims at Mater Dei Hospital
Health Minister Chris Fearne would not commit to a date by which the morning-after will be made available to rape victims at Mater Dei Hospital

Government is in the process of finalising a proposal to set up a new facility for victims of sexual assault, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Tuesday.

“I have been informed that in the coming months, the proposal will be finalised and out for consultation with doctors, nurses and stakeholders within the sector,” Fearne said. The facility will be housed in a new building outside of Mater Dei Hospital.

The minister was speaking after the inauguration of a new patient ward at Mount Carmel Hospital, where he was asked by MaltaToday about concerns raised by pro-choice group Doctors for Choice that noted how despite emergency contraception being made legal three years ago, the morning-after pill was still not being offered to rape victims admitted to hospital. Similar concerns have been raised by the Women’s Rights Foundation.

A ministry spokesperson for the ministry told this newsroom earlier on Tuesday that “meetings were held between the Health Ministry, the Family Ministry and the Victim Support Unit, and a proposal is being finalised for the services offered to these persons to be improved, including the supply of the morning-after pill (MAP) where indicated”.

In the meantime, the spokesperson said, “MAP is already available in private pharmacies”.

Pressed for answer on whether a deadline had been set for the pill to be made available at hospital, Fearne insisted that not only would the new facility provide rape victims with access to emergency contraception, but it would also bring together a number of other services to help victims of sexual assault.

The goal, he said, was the creation of a facility that offered  a holistic service including counselling and support to vulnerable persons.

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