By Dr Christopher Barbara
2019 has been a year of change, and a year of disruptions. Perhaps never more so than in the last few weeks which upended the political scene and brought to an end Joseph Muscat's premiership. These developments have stunned a lot of people and the country needs to time to recover, which is why we have not been very active as an organisation recently and this will probably continue for most of January.
Both contenders for Labour Party leadership, and hence for the post of Prime Minister, have answered in the negative when asked whether they would consider legalising abortion in Malta. We can't say we're surprised. Regardless of their personal views, politicians in Malta will not be able to speak in favour of abortion rights any time soon, and this is precisely why pro-choice NGOs are needed to push foward the fight for reproductive rights in our country. And this is where 2019 has brought some positive change.
March 2019 saw the formation of Voice for Choice, a pro-choice coalition of individuals and NGOs including the Women's Rights Foundation, aditus, and Moviment Graffiti. Two months later a group of doctors - myself included - decided to contribute to this newly emerged pro-choice movement by forming Doctors for Choice. Our intention was to have a group of pro-choice doctors that would argue the medal aspect of abortion debate.
As one of the admins of the social media accounts of Doctors for Choice I can tell you that the amount of abuse and hate some people threw our way after we launched was quite stunning. But, as expected, the abuse gradually got less and less as the anti-choice side realised that we are here to stay regarless of how many times we have to delete their comments on social media.
As the year went on our ambitions grew, and we eventually established a non-profit organisation and partnered up with Global Doctors for Choice. September 2019 saw Malta's First Rally for Choice, to which we are very proud to have contributed. The rally made national headlines and we are sure it went a long way to break the taboo that is abortion in our country. In the following months Doctors for Choice organised a number of events, including what was possibly the first ever factual public lecture on abortion at the University of Malta.
2019 exceeded our expectations as an organisation. Yes, "coming out" as pro-choice is still hard to do in Malta, but as the year draws to a close we are more convinced than ever that we are on the right side of history, and we are more determined than ever to fight for the reproductive rights of people in our country. So here's to a successful year, and here's to hoping 2020 will not disappoint.