Emergency contraceptives are relatively easy to come by in Malta if you’re 18 and over. However, if you’re 16 and worried that you could be pregnant, accessing this pill may not be as simple of a task.
Lovin Malta contacted 30 pharmacies that sell the morning after pill and only 13 of them were willing to give the medication to a 16-year-old without parental consent.
Why is this bad? You may be wondering.
Well, the Health (Amendment) Bill directly states that it’s there “to enable persons who have reached the age of 16 years to consent or refuse medical attention, care or treatment upon their own individual judgement if the medical practitioner decides that they have sufficient maturity and understanding to take such a decision.”
This means that if a person is 16-years-old then they have the right to use or refuse medication without the consent of a parent or guardian as long as the medical practitioner decides that they have the proper understanding to make that decision.
Now, despite the morning after pill (MAP) being an over-the-counter medication, 16-year-olds should be given the chance to speak to a medical practitioner (which can be a doctor or a clinical pharmacist) and essentially prove that they have “sufficient maturity” to make the extremely time-critical decision for themselves.
However, not many pharmacies give these teens this option.
When Lovin Malta reached out to some of the pharmacies on the island, we informed them that we were 16-years-old and needed to purchase MAP alone, needless to say that our request was met with a plethora of responses.
One Sliema pharmacy was humorously shocked at the request, “of course not! We obviously can’t sell you the morning after pill without a parent,” they said as if they were just asked to spill state secrets.
Another Sliema pharmacy was equally as uncooperative when the person on the phone refused to ask the pharmacist if they’d sell the MAP to a 16-year-old girl and told us to just “come and see”.
This was until we essentially begged and he reluctantly agreed to get the information – turns out they didn’t sell the pill to people under 18, so coming and seeing would’ve been a useless and embarrassing affair for a 16-year-old girl to endure alone.
Nonetheless, there were many pharmacies that, although they required parental consent, were apologetic and recommended places that they thought would sell the pill to 16-year-olds without the extra requirements.
Meanwhile, the ones that did sell it were kind and helpful.
“Drop by and we’ll talk, I won’t deny you the pill,” said one Gżira pharmacy.
“What’s your name? You can come by at any time, I’ll be here all day,” said another, this time in Pieta.
Out of the 30, however, only a couple of pharmacies stated that parental consent wouldn’t suffice, a doctor’s prescription or visit to the clinic was needed.
Others saw it as an either or situation, you can either have parental consent or bring a doctor’s prescription – both work.
This is not the first time Lovin Malta has tried and tested the pharmacies on the island for the morning after pill.
Back in 2019, after a young woman’s less-than-favourable experience trying to obtain the MAP, we visited 10 different pharmacies to see what it was like and we deduced that, really, it depends on who’s behind the counter – signalling a lack of uniform procedure that prevails today, considering some sell it to 16-year-olds (alone) and others don’t.
More recently, we got some first-hand experiences from you guys through a sex on the island survey, and the overwhelming amount of teens being asked for parental consent is what sparked this mini-investigation.
As did information from Women’s Rights Foundation that stated that “any pharmacist refusing to sell Emergency contraception to a person ages 16 to 18 is in breach of the law.”
With the law backing us, it’s safe to say that refusing this medication to someone between the ages of 16 and 18 solely based on their age is damaging and counterproductive – especially when the age of sexual consent is 16 and Malta has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in Southern Europe.
Don’t you think it’s about time that a uniform procedure is established so that acquiring necessary and time-sensitive emergency contraception (in a country that holds a complete blanket ban on abortion) cannot be compared to sticking your hand in a box of quality street unsure of which flavour chocolate you’re going to get?
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