Since opening in Malta on 14 February 2019, 43 women have contacted UK charity Abortion Support Network (ASN) for information on abortion abroad, with hundreds of Maltese residents also seeking information on accessing abortive 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 in a statement.
The people who contacted ASN from Malta ranged from 19 to 45 years old. At least two of the cases were pregnant as a result of sexual assault, while a further two were diagnosed with severe foetal abnormalities.
The figures have been released just a day before Malta will be hosting its first-ever pro-choice rally in Valletta. A counter-rally composed of pro-life groups is expected to take place.
ASN Chief Executive Ruth Taylor, who is taking part in this Saturday’s rally, said of the statistics:
“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.”
Lara Dimitrijevic from Voice for Choice, went one step further saying that the state is “failing in its duty to provide abortion care, something that is a basic and essential part of women’s healthcare”.
As it stands, abortion remains an entirely criminal offence and is not allowed in any circumstance. A woman who willingly gets an abortion is liable to a prison term for 18 months to three years. Three women have been charged since 2000.