Europe has been at the forefront of the global trend towards the liberalisation of abortion laws for more than 60 years – but Malta is lagging centuries behind.
Human rights NGO Amnesty International published an article on abortion laws across Europe, and, as the only EU member state with a total ban on abortion, Malta is extensively featured in it.
Amnesty acknowledges that the Voice for Choice coalition has managed to create a national discourse and mobilise the younger generation in particular, and says the group is challenging “draconian and dangerous abortion laws”.
“Every positive reform on abortion around the world is hard fought. They are first and foremost achievements of women who courageously break their silence about their experiences of unsafe abortion, as well as women’s rights movements and their allies.”
“They have formed groups to provide solidarity, information, practical and emotional support and health care to people in need. People do this despite enduring stigma, threats, harassment and even criminalisation.”
Professor and gynaecologist Isabel Stabile and founder of the Women’s Rights Foundation Lara Dimitrijevic commented on Malta’s abortion laws.
“We know this is right,” Stabile said. “We also know it’s inevitable. I am quite sure that the law will change.”
“The discourse around abortion in the country definitely changed – for one thing we’re talking about abortion. Two years ago we weren’t even doing that; it was completely taboo,” she continued, noting that the real stories of women have helped.
“What keeps me going, apart from my patients, is that we know this is right. We are at this point, the last bastion in the EU, but it will change because it’s impossible for it not to.”
“I made a commitment years ago to do everything in my power to assist people who need help. And that includes safe abortion, because abortion care is healthcare, whatever else some people in Malta might believe.”
Dimitrijevic is spearheading the work of the Voice for Choice coalition. “What keeps me going is the women themselves; I call them sheroes.”
“Receiving support on a global level has made a massive difference for us: having organizations all over the world talk about this issue, whether it’s within Europe, Latin America, America, that’s been amazing. We’re all in it together.”
“It is crucial for people outside of Malta to know how bad the situation is on this tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean; many people don’t even know it exists.”
“We feel lucky to have that support, wherever it comes from, because it makes you feel that you are bringing the change, that your voice is being heard.”
The country’s abortion laws remain a the topic of a heated debate, as pro-choice activists continue their campaign for women’s basic reproductive rights.
How do you feel about Amnesty International’s criticism?