Malta is one of only five countries in the world that ban abortion entirely and the topic remains taboo, with surveys showing a strong majority against its introduction and politicians consistently resisting a national debate on it.
Yet it is a known fact that some pregnant Maltese women still travel overseas to get an abortion, and some of these women and their partners have now spoken about their experiences through an anonymous Lovin Malta survey on abortion.
The survey received 1,118 responses, out of which 24 were women who had an abortion, 12 were men whose partners had one, and one who didn’t disclose their gender.
These are some of the most notable findings:
The vast majority disagree with Malta’s abortion laws
32 of the respondents had harsh words when asked how they feel about Malta’s total abortion ban, with many saying they feel angry, appalled and disgusted, and that the ban is “medieval” and influenced by religion.
Woman aged 31-35 from Mosta: “It sucks”
Woman aged 36-40 from San Gwann: “Religion impedes on this ban. It’s sad that we do not have access locally and safely for an abortion.”
Woman aged 26-30 from Sliema: “It’s an infringement on my rights as a woman who doesn’t want kids. It’s also quite an oxymoron as abortion is in fact legal and free (on the NHS) for Maltese women to do it in England, but yet we can’t do it in the comfort of our own home.”
Man aged 36-40 from Swieqi: “I think it’s created a situation where people that can afford it can go overseas and get it done, whilst people that can’t are forced to raise a child they don’t want. Those belonging to latter category tend to to be bad parents (not all) and end up raising kids that end up in the same situation (it’s a cycle).”
Woman aged 26-30 from Sliema: “It’s pathetic: Why should only rich people who can afford to go abroad and have it done be able to have access to that option?”
Most had an abortion in the UK
17 of the respondents said they had an abortion in the UK, but a couple of them said they had one in Italy, Germany, Sweden, Austria and Asia. One woman said she ordered the abortion pill online and one man said he and his partner got family overseas to send the pill over by courier.
The cost varied
Three said the entire process, including flight tickets, cost them around €2,000, one said it cost €1,500, but some said it cost anywhere between €200 and €700. The woman who ordered the abortion pill online said it cost her $100 (€82).
As did their experiences of the abortion itself
Asked to describe the abortion, responses varied from it being “a nightmare” and “awful” to “satisfactory” and “very easy”.
Woman aged 31-35: “It was a relatively quick procedure with a short recovery time. Emotionally it can take it toll though, it depends on the current frame of mind.”
Woman aged 26-30 from Pieta: “Scary as I didn’t know what to expect, but they explain everything that’s going to happen then it’s over before you know it. There was no pain whatsoever.”
Woman aged 22-25 from St Julian’s: “I was very sure of my decision going in to it, so I was emotionally prepared and felt unphased except for the physical normal symptoms like cramps etc”
Woman aged 26-30 from Birzebbugia: “Not physically painful but emotionally painful, I will never forget that I was a mother for some weeks.”
The vast majority have kept their abortions very secret
Practically all the respondents said they kept their abortion experience within very tight circles, with 14 responding that they told no one or only their partners. Some told their parents and very close friends, while one woman spoke about it to a psychologist and another spoke to her colleagues and the media.
Yet practically none of them regret it
Interestingly, only three of the 37 respondents (two men and the person who didn’t disclose their gender) said they regret having an abortion when asked how they feel about the experience now.
Unknown gender, aged 31-35 from Sliema: “I feel horrible, powerless and regretful, and it destroyed my relationship. People take abortion too lightly… making it legal does not mean making it morally acceptable. I do not think it should be legal, it is very easy to go abroad and have the unborn child killed anyway.”
Some of the ones who said they have no regrets gave some pretty powerful reasons why.
Woman aged 51-60: “I had two [abortions] . I was very young both times. I do not regret it in any way. It was very early in the pregnancy and I did not consider that having the baby was viable. It was my decision both times.”
Woman aged 26-30 from Sliema: “I’m so glad I did it. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t, as I wasn’t ready for children back then, and the world we live in already makes it hard enough for women as it is, let alone women who have children.”
Man aged 41-50 from Mellieha: “If you have your back to the wall, there is not much you can do but to go for it as long as both partners agree.”
Woman aged 31-35: “I feel it was the right choice since otherwise I would have had to live as a single mother which would have impacted me and my family ,not to mention being bound to an ex-partner and their family for a lifetime.”
Woman aged 26-30 from Birzebbugia: “Considering my situation at that time, I’d do it again. I love children, I don’t have anything against them and I’d love to have children, but at that time i didn’t have physical and financial support. It affects me every Mothers” Day, it is something that I carry silently with me every day, and feel punished when I see all the negative comments on abortion by people and on the media. Abortion is a serious thing, is still considered killing and should be avoided as much as possible. However, I agree with it if opted for a valid reason. It doesn’t increase social problems ie. children in institutions, and poverty amongst others.”
Woman aged 26-30 from Pieta: “Very positive. I cannot imagine myself with an almost 10 year old now. The baby wasn’t coming into a loving family. I don’t even want to have kids now, let alone then, and financially I wasn’t even ready then. My life would have been ruined if I kept him – I wouldn’t have opened my business, gone travelling around the world or met my husband and have the life I’ve built for myself now. It was definitely the best choice for me. I know of three other women who had an abortion (Maltese too) and they all feel the same. They just don’t speak about it (neither do I) because the Maltese are very quick to shame you as a murderer.”