A group of 100 European civil society organisations has urged Malta and five other European countries to urgently reform their abortion laws, warning travel bans introduced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a heightened risk for the health and wellbeing of women seeking abortions.
“We call on the six European countries where abortion is illegal or severely restricted to urgently reform these laws, which place women’s health and lives at risk,” the organisations said, referring to Malta, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Poland and San Marino.
“Limitations on travel and transport now compound the impact of these highly restrictive laws. Individuals in these countries may no longer be able to travel abroad or to obtain medication for abortion sent by post from medical providers in other countries. As a result, they face heightened risks to their health and wellbeing.”
The organisations include three Maltese pro-choice groups – namely Voice for Choice – L-Għażla Tagħha, Doctors for Choice Malta and the Women’s Rights Foundation.
The organisations also raised concerns over increased barriers for women accessing treatment and medicine like emergency contraception amid the coronavirus pandemic and called for the removal of restrictions in order to decrease risks of contamination, protect their wellbeing and safeguard access to time-sensitive reproductive healthcare.
“European governments must ensure safe and timely access to abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said.
Ensuring access to telehealth and allowing early medical abortion to be done from home are some of the measures called for.
Last month, the UK announced it will allow the abortion pill to be taken at home amid the COVID-19 crisis, to prevent possible contamination by having to travel to the clinic.
However, with COVID-19 travel restrictions blocking ‘non-essential’ passenger flights, women in countries will abortion bans like Malta are left with no options, and may resort to drastic measures.
Last week, Abortion Support Network, a UK-based charity that supports women in countries with full bans on abortions, has warned they have already received a flood of emails from women in Malta seeking the procedure.