Yesterday, a Maltese woman was brought to court after facing criminal charges that she self-managed a medical abortion at home. This woman initially contacted Doctors for Choice asking for help, after she was reported by someone known to her, and was referred to the legal team of Women’s Rights Foundation, who assisted her throughout the ordeal. She was today found guilty and given a conditional discharge for three years by our courts of law.
We have one clear message after today: this will continue to happen. We often hear in public and political discourse that women are never prosecuted in Malta for accessing abortion. Today was an outrageous and painful reminder that this is not unthinkable, that it has happened, and can happen to any pregnant person who has an abortion through any means in our country.
There cannot be talk of equality as long as women and people who can get pregnant who access abortions continue to be treated as criminals.
If more evidence was needed that our country stands out as a pariah and a violator of women's rights, this is it: a woman was charged with a crime for something that has been acknowledged as a right and essential healthcare by practically every other modern democratic country decades ago, as well as every human rights and healthcare organisation in the world.
Our politicians, our justice system, our healthcare system continue to betray women and those who can get pregnant. We wallow in our ignorance and take pride in what should be our shame.
Every year, hundreds of women in Malta self-manage their own abortions. Medical abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) are safe and are listed on the WHO’s list of essential medicines. However, the criminalisation of abortion means that people worry about accessing the care they need for fear of legal (and social) repercussions. In the absence of laws that protect them, they feel alone – scared of talking about it and scared of seeking support.
This case is an example of the institutions and forces of the state being employed in the persecution of a person based on their sex and gender. It is an outright breach of her right to bodily autonomy, family life, her decision to time and space her children as well as of her right to privacy. This case was nothing short of a perversion of justice.
There cannot be talk of equality as long as women and persons who could get pregnant continue to be regarded by the state as incubators and second class citizens.
As the Voice for Choice coalition, we call on the state to decriminalise abortion now.
We also call on all those who care for someone who could get pregnant to take a stand against this outrage.
Academics for Choice
Grandparents for Choice (Nanniet għall-Għażla)