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COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Harm Women In Malta Seeking Abortions Abroad, Support Network Warns

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COVID-19 travel restrictions are harming women in Malta seeking an abortion abroad, Abortion Support Network founder Mara Clarke has warned after the organisation received a flood of emails from those seeking the procedure.

Over the last week, Abortion Support Network received more emails than they would in a month.

“[Abortion Support Network] put out a press release on the 1 year anniversary of our time open to Malta on 14 February. At that point, we’d heard from 82 people over the year or an average of 6.8 people per month.”

“Last week we received contact from 7 new people in Malta. This does not include people in Malta we had been talking to from the previous weeks,” she said. 

The UK based charity provides assistance and information to those forced to travel for abortion care from Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Poland, Gibraltar and Malta.

The cost of this ranges from £400 to £2000 or more depending on circumstance and stage of pregnancy.  

Meanwhile, other countries such as the UK have eased restrictions on those seeking to terminate their pregnancies amid the pandemic. Patients can now take the two abortion pills in their home rather than a clinic, to minimise potential exposure to COVID-19.

Malta is one of six countries in the world with a total blanket ban on abortion, forcing women to travel and incur significant expenses to receive this healthcare.

However, with COVID-19 travel restrictions blocking ‘non-essential’ passenger flights, women in Malta have little to no options, and in times of crisis, may resort to drastic measures.

“One important thing to note right now is that for people in abusive or controlling relationships, it may not be possible to choose when to have sex or to ensure birth control is used, and this may lead to an increase in unintended pregnancy,” Clarke warned.

“I am always worried about what will happen to women and pregnant people forced to continue pregnancies when they do not want to. But I hope enough people know about groups like Abortion Support Network, Women on Web and Women Help Women who can at least advise on safe methods. I also desperately hope that this situation pushes Malta to consider changing its draconian abortion law,” Clarke continued. 

Doctors For Choice, an organisation of pro-choice doctors in Malta warned of the implications of the travel ban in a country that already imposes strict anti-abortion laws.

“We know hundreds of women in Malta have an abortion every year. And yet, public and political support for legalising abortion remains rare,” they said.

“Why? We suspect a lot of it has to do with people thinking, ‘ah well, if it happens to me I’ll just hop onto a plane.’ Well, it’s no longer as simple as that. The abortion ban has now really started to bite, and a lot of women are suffering.”

“We hope this crisis has dispelled the idea that Malta can continue to rely on abortion services provided by other countries. It can’t. Women in Malta are no different to women elsewhere. They need access to safe, legal abortion,” they stressed. 

 

 

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