Pro-choice groups have flagged Facebook pages which have popped up in recent months claiming to sell abortion pills in Malta.
Women’s Rights Foundation accused these pages of “preying on women’s vulnerability and desperation” in a time when the only way to get an abortion for Maltese women has been blocked by the COVID-19 travel ban.
“These pages are outright cruel and endangering women’s lives all because our politicians keep on burying their heads in the ground. A total ban on abortion is not stopping women from accessing abortion care but to the contrary putting them at risk,” Lara Dimitrijevic from WRF said.
Doctors For Choice, a group of pro-choice doctors in Malta, also warned of the risks of obtaining abortion pills from unauthorised sources.
“Due to the legal ban on abortion it is not possible to control what sort of medication and which organisations are dispensing these to women in Malta and this can be very dangerous,” they said.
“These pills are medicinal products and they should only be obtained from reputable sources ideally from clinics, but we know that many women are ordering such pills online.”
In fact, Women on Web, a Dutch charity that provides abortion pills have noted at least 63 women from Malta requesting their help within the last two months.
According to Doctors For Choice, 28 of these women reported not being able to travel as the reason for seeking abortion pills online and another three disclosed being victims of domestic violence.
Meanwhile UK based charity Abortion Support Network has reported a surge in women seeking help over the past two months. Between March and April, ASN has received 31 requests from women in Malta, more than double the requests received on average.
Doctors For Choice say they anticipated a surge in the number of women seeking help during the pandemic.
“To a degree, an increase in numbers is to be expected considering that travel restrictions are preventing women from travelling for abortion,” they said.
“However, the figures show that the increase in the number of women seeking help is greater than one might expect, indicating that the number women suffering as a result of Malta’s abortion ban is also greater than one might expect.”
The pro-choice group stressed the need to lift the ban on abortion that’s putting women’s lives at risk, especially during the pandemic.
“Majority opinion should not determine which healthcare services are offered. Abortion care is an essential part of women’s healthcare and must be available and accessible,” they said.
“We reiterate that the total legal ban on abortion is putting women’s health and lives at risk. The authorities need to address this issue and implement change to ensure women’s lives and choices are respected.”