A hot debate in Malta has made it to the international stage, but it’s not for the best reasons. The islands’ taboo issue of abortion was a subject point on Der Spiegel, one of the most-read news portals in Germany.
The article, entitled “Activists against draconian laws in Malta”, divulges the realities faced by women dealing with the strictest abortion law in the EU, and how the pandemic worsened their situation.
“Catholicism is the state religion in Malta and it defines life on the island: sex is a taboo subject and something to be had in marriage. There is only limited sex education in school. The topic of abortion is ignored in medical school,” a translation of the text reads.
The journalist, Nele Sophie Karsten, spoke to local pro-abortion rights activists and a Maltese woman who got an abortion during the pandemic.
A Maltese 37-year-old financial auditor and single mother, under the pseudonym Lucy Abela, details the harrowing experience of getting an abortion in Malta. It was made worse in the last year when one of the only channels to termination was closed as flights were grounded because of COVID-19.
“Around 500,000 people live in Malta. It feels like everyone knows each other,” Lucy told the journalist, pleading to keep her identity anonymous in fear of being imprisoned.
“Those who abort are socially ostracized and condemned,” she continued.
However, Lucy said she wouldn’t have had the money to travel for an abortion even without lockdown. An abortion costs up to €1,800 in the UK for example, plus travel and hotel fees.
Lucy Abela got help from Doctors For Choice Malta, who put her in contact with WomenOnTheWeb, a non-profit that procures pills for pregnant women in countries where abortion is banned.
However, Lucy suffered complications and she spat out the pills. She bled non-stop and eventually had to be hospitalised.
“During all the weeks since the pregnancy test, I’ve felt more alone than ever,” Lucy said.
Doctors For Choice Malta co-founder Natalie Psaila explained that they offer advice on the phone for women who want abortions and women who have been discriminated against, molested or raped. She believes that abortion is autonomy.
“For me, abortion means freedom. To have the choice to be able to determine my own body. To live my life the way I want it. That’s why I’m pro-choice.”
Another local activist Liza Caruana-Finkel collects stories like Lucy’s. She founded the website Break the Taboo Malta, where women can share their experiences.
“It’s about making women’s stories visible. Everyone should see what is happening in Malta,” she said, adding that they’ve received reports of women attempting to use clothes hangers to terminate their pregnancies while unintentionally pregnant women stranded in lockdown were left to their own devices.
Der Spiegel also interviewed an anti-abortion rights activist and gynaecologist Theresa Galea Testa.
“Human life begins with conception,” the 51-year-old said. “Abortion is the opposite of feminism because it is against the nature of the female body. It is horrific to kill one’s offspring. We humans shouldn’t judge life and death. As a doctor, I in particular have the task of protecting life.”
According to the news portal, women like Lusy are afraid of people like Testa.
“To this day, almost a year later, Lucy has never told her family, friends or work colleagues about her abortion. Still, she regrets nothing,” the article finishes.
Read the whole article here.
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