Charities warn that anti-choice groups in Malta are targeting women with “lies and misinformation” to prevent them accessing legal abortion care overseas.
Charities raise their concerns after hearing reports of anti-abortion groups obstructing women’s access to legal abortion care through intimidation and misinformation.
Women have reported anti-choice groups impersonating abortion services and sending abusive text messages.
Malta is the only country in the EU where abortion is illegal in all circumstances, including where the woman’s life is at risk.
Charities warn that by attempting to block women’s access to safe, legal care overseas, women will be delayed and forced to undergo procedures at a later gestation, at an increased cost, or may resort to using abortion pills purchased online, illegally, risking up to three years imprisonment.
The charities the Abortion Support Network (ASN), the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) and Voice for Choice Malta have raised their concerns about reports of rogue crisis pregnancy centres and individuals who are against abortion employing tactics of intimidation and giving incorrect information under false pretences to women seeking legal abortion care overseas.
In Malta abortion is illegal in all circumstances, and any woman or clinician who undergoes or performs an abortion risks up to life imprisonment, forcing women to travel overseas for treatment. In 2017, an average of one woman a week from Malta had an abortion in the UK.
However, charities have today expressed their concern that anti-abortion groups in Malta are using deception and intimidation to prevent women accessing safe, legal care overseas. Tactics are reported to include:
Impersonating abortion services in order to provide incorrect information about a woman’s ability to travel to England for an abortion.
Sharing contact details of vulnerable women with anti-abortion groups in Ireland.
Sending abusive text messages and visiting women at their home addresses.
Charities are concerned that the methods employed by anti-abortion groups not only can cause immense personal distress, but that by delaying women’s access to treatment, they may be cause women to undergo procedures at a later gestation. While abortion is a safe procedure, it is safer when performed earlier in the pregnancy. Later surgical terminations are also significantly more expensive than earlier procedures using medication. The charities are also concerned that if women are obstructed in travelling overseas, they may risk potential criminalisation by using abortion pills purchased online.
Mara Clarke, Founder of Abortion Support Network said:
“When we expanded our services to Malta in February, we expected – and got – push back from people in Malta who are against abortion. What we did not expect was to hear from women who had been misled by people within Malta, organisations and individuals who offered to give information about pregnancy options including abortion and instead attempted to scare these women and girls with lies and medical misinformation.
“One group shared women’s phone numbers and email addresses with an anti-abortion group in Ireland. Another person pretended to be an employee from an abortion clinic and told a young woman she needed to delay her procedure by 2 months (by which time it would have been too late for her to get an abortion in England). Another anti-abortion activist, after pretending she would help a woman get an abortion, sent her abusive text messages and visited her home trying to dissuade her from having an abortion.
“Two of the women we heard from were in quite vulnerable situations and it is despicable that these organisations would prey upon women in this way.”
Voice for Choice, in Malta said:
“Women in Malta are already suffering due to the fact that we continue to have a total abortion ban and due to total lack of publicly available factual, non-biased information. Seeking access to abortion services outside Malta is not illegal and they have every right to do. Impersonating legitimate services so as to con women seeking the right services for them, is unethical and nothing short of despicable.”
Katherine O’Brien, bpas spokesperson, said:
“Individuals are entitled to have a personal opposition to abortion. However, it is completely wrong to spread lies and misinformation in order to prevent or delay women accessing safe, legal healthcare. We would like to stress that these tactics, rather than stopping abortions, will instead force women to have later terminations or risk criminalisation by using pills online.
“It is incredibly worrying to hear reports that anti-abortion groups could be breaching women’s confidentiality by visiting their homes. This could have real and significant consequences for women who are in a controlling or abusive relation, and those who do not wish their partner or family to know about their pregnancy.
“Accessing services in the UK is hard enough without acts of deliberate obstruction.”
ASN, bpas and Voice for Choice wanted to set the record straight for anyone in Malta who is considering having an abortion who want unbiased, factual information and advice.
bpas (the British Pregnancy Advisory Service) can offer pregnancy options counselling for anyone from Malta who wants information about all their options (parenting, adoption or abortion).
Abortion Support Network can offer information on the least expensive method of abortion and travel, financial help towards the cost of travel and procedure, overnight accommodation, and information on the reputable online providers of early medical abortion pills. All of this can be found by contacting ASN email@example.com, visiting www.asn.org.uk/malta or by ringing +356 277 8 0991.
If someone in Malta speaks to an organisation that tells them abortion causes breast cancer, mental health issues, or infertility (all proven false by science); if they are told they need to get a scan in Malta; if they are asked for their home address; if they contact an organisation called Life Network; if someone offers to come to their house; if someone contacts them from a phone number beginning +353 (for Ireland); they are speaking to an anti-abortion organisation. While ASN, bpas and Voice for Choice respect the right of individuals and organisations to be against abortion, we draw the line at using scare tactics, lies, and intimidation.
For press enquiries please contact:
Mara Clarke, Founder, Abortion Support Network
+44 7913 353 530
Lara Dimitrijevic, spokesperson, Voice for Choice
bpas press office
+44 207 061 3377 or +44 7788 725 185
Notes for Editors
1. About Abortion Support Network
Abortion Support Network (ASN) is a charity that provides financial assistance, confidential, non-judgmental information and accommodation in volunteer homes to people forced to travel from Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man (and now Malta and Gibraltar!) and pay privately for abortions in England. The cost ranges between £400 and £2000 or more depending on circumstance and stage of pregnancy. While many organisations campaign for much needed law reform, ASN is the only group providing those travelling for abortions with the thing they need most immediately: money.www.asn.org.uk
2. About BPAS
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) is a British reproductive healthcare charity that offers pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management, contraception and STI testing to nearly 80,000 women each year via our clinics in England, Wales, and Scotland.
BPAS has provided abortion care to women from Northern Ireland for 50 years, and today also provide a specialist pathway for women undergoing abortion care for foetal anomaly. We currently run the Central Booking Service, funded by the Government and Equalities Office, which finds consultation and treatment appointments in England for women travelling from Northern Ireland for abortion care. www.bpas.org
3. About Voice for Choice
Voice for Choice is composed of 7 civil society organisations and number of individuals that represent various sectors of society that together want to work for reproductive rights and justice in Malta.
Our aim is to raise awareness in the community and combat the stigma and shame surrounding abortion, as well as providing up to date information to support evidence-based policy. The coalition is lobbying for decriminalization of abortion so as to ensure that all pregnant persons, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, beliefs or age are supported, respected and protected whatever their choices. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org