43 Maltese women sought overseas abortion information, NGO says

Abortion Support Network, a British charity, says that since opening up to Maltese residents in February this year, 43 women reached out for information about abortion abroad

Abortion is a morally charged issue that has elicited strong reactions in favour and against everywhere it was legalised
Abortion is a morally charged issue that has elicited strong reactions in favour and against everywhere it was legalised

43 women from Malta sought information on abortions overseas by contacting the Abortion Support Network, the British charity said.

ASN only opened its information service to Malta last February.

The organisation said that online providers it worked with of early medical abortion pills received inquiries from hundreds of Maltese residents, asking on how to access tablets from home.

"These numbers show what activists have known for years – that making abortion against the law doesn’t stop abortion but forces women and pregnant people to travel abroad or look online for healthcare," the group said.

ASN does not perform abortions but offers information and contacts for people exploring the idea.

"It’s appalling that when faced with an unwanted or non-viable pregnancy, women in Malta with financial resources can access abortion abroad, while those with less money are forced to risk criminal prosecution by ordering tablets from the internet. Some take dangerous and desperate methods to self-abort," the organisation said.

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ASN’s Chief Executive Ruth Taylor said that the average age of women contacting the charity from Malta was between 19 and 45.

"Queries to the charity included those looking for unbiased pregnancy options, counselling, seeking the names of reputable providers of safe early medical abortion pills, information on abortion clinics abroad and for financial assistance with the costs involved," she said.

Taylor highlighted that some of the women had been misled by anti-abortion organisations providing misinformation.

"At least two were pregnant as a result of sexual assault and a further two had pregnancies diagnosed with severe foetal abnormalities. ASN’s helpline provided information and awarded funding to cover the costs of telephone consultations, travel costs, and abortion services abroad," she said.

Taylor said that they only know the number of persons who contacted their helpline or the services of the providers of early medical abortion pills that they have relationships with.

"We do not know the numbers of people who go to other websites to try and access tablets, those who do not need ASN’s support to travel, or those who travel to other countries for abortion. What these numbers – each one representing an actual human being – do show is that Malta’s abortion law is not preventing abortion and that better reproductive health services are desperately needed."

Chair of Women’s Rights Foundation, Lara Dimitrijevic said that abortion is a reality for women in Malta and has always been.

"The state is failing in its duty to provide abortion care, something that is a basic and essential part of women’s healthcare. We are therefore thankful that ASN decided to extend its services to Malta, fill in the gap and support women from Malta betrayed by their own society," Dimitrijevic.

Malta is gearing up for its first pro-choice rally that will be held on Saturday at 2pm at Hastings Garden.

Social policy academic Andrea Dibben told MaltaToday previously, "Malta’s first Rally for Choice will serve to spread awareness of women’s struggles, as well as combating the stigma and taboo against women who choose to have an abortion".

Dibben said that despite the fact the majority of Maltese do not resonate with the call to legalise abortion, it was still important to highlight the struggles Maltese women face due to the country’s strict abortion laws.

READ ALSO: MaltaToday Survey | No change in Malta’s anti-abortion attitudes

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