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Academics want to deny victims of rape access to legal abortion in Malta




As the country mourns the violent murder of domestic violence victim Bernice Cassar, a group of 80 individuals who describe themselves as academics issued a position paper in response to the government-proposed amendment to Malta's abortion laws. The government has proposed an amendment to allow the termination of pregnancy in cases when the pregnant woman's life is at risk, or when there is a grave risk to the pregnant woman's health.


In their response, this group of 80 academics argued that a number of conditions and categories of people should be excluded from accessing a legal abortion in Malta. Their list of exclusions is: (a) anxiety; (b) emotional distress; (c) organic mental disorder; (d) a stressful situation arising from economic circumstance or unwanted pregnancy; (e) cases of rape; (f) inconvenient pregnancy; (g) an abnormal foetus; or (h) such other medical, mental, psychosocial, or psychological conditions or disorders that may be treated through ordinary clinical measures.


If their suggestion were to be accepted, it would mean people with life threatening mental disorders and victims of rape would be denied a legal abortion, unless they develop some other life threatening physical condition. Not only is their suggestion stigmatising to mental illness, and treats mental illness as being inferior and less worthy of treatment than physical illness, but it is also cruel to those who are victims of sexual assault. Even countries that do not allow abortion on request usually have provisions to allow victims of sexual assault access to abortion. These academics also propose a specific prohibition against allowing abortions in cases of fatal fetal anomaly, forcing affected families to give birth to children who will suffer and die after a few days or weeks.


Another potentially dangerous suggestion they make is the requirement to have three specialists take the decision to terminate the pregnancy. This may introduce delays in the delivery of life-saving care and may lead to a higher level of risk being required before an abortion is authorised. Such delays and increased level of risk may cost a pregnant person their life.


They also suggest that there should be a special register with the names of people who have legal abortions in Malta. This raises privacy and data protection concerns, especially if this register were to end up in the wrong hands or be leaked. Abortion is a standard healthcare procedure and the fact that someone has had an abortion should be recorded in their personal confidential medical record and nowhere else.


It is important to stress that abortion is a reality in Malta and is already happening. Pregnant people are ordering safe but illegal abortion pills online and taking them at home. The abortion ban only makes these abortions less safe, and makes people less able to seek help if they develop a complication.


Their full position paper can be found here.


The list of signatories is:


Mgr Professor Emmanuel Agius

Professor Kevin Aquilina

Dr Josephine Attard

Rev Dr Stefan Attard

Professor Simon Attard Montaldo

Professor Andrew Azzopardi

Mr Peppi Azzopardi

Judge Giovanni Bonello

Professor Tonio Borg

Professor Rita Borg Xuereb

Professor Vince Briffa

Dr Maximilian Brincat

Professor George Buttigieg

Rev Dr Carlo Calleja

Professor Jean Calleja Agius

Professor Anne-Marie Callus

Dr Astrid Camilleri

Dr Rodianne Camilleri Agius

Professor Frances Camilleri-Cassar

Professor Antoinette Camilleri Grima

Dr Maria Cassar

Dr Dalisio Chetcuti

Dr Marcelle Chircop

Dr Romina Cini Custo

Professor Maureen Cole

Dr Helga Consiglio

Dr Mark Cordina

Dr Johann Craus

Dr Sylvianne Dalli

Professor Nadia Delicata

Dr Bridget Ellul

Professor Ruth Falzon

Dr Rosienne Farrugia

Dr Nicholas Felice

Dr Mark Formosa

Professor Anthony J. Frendo

Dr Ivan Galea

Dr Vickie Gauci

Dr Heidi Gauci Grech

Professor Helen Grech

Professor George Grima

Dr Marlon Hamsworth

Professor Josef Lauri

Professor Carmel Mallia

Prof Patricia Mallia Vella de Fremeaux

Dr John Mamo

Dr Judith Mifsud

Professor Yves Muscat Baron

Dr Martin M. Musumeci

Dr Maria Navarro

Dr Marcus Pace

Professor Paul J. Pace

Dr Carmen Portelli

Ms Lourdes Pullicino

Dr Mario Refalo

Dr Andrew Sammut

Professor Ivan Sammut

Dr Olivia Anne Sammut

Dr Clarissa Sammut Scerri

Professor Paul Sant Cassia

Professor Charles Savona Ventura

Dr Albert P. Scerri

Professor Pierre Schembri Wismayer

Ms Svetlana M. Schembri Wismayer

Dr Miriam Sciberras

Professor Valerie Sollars

Dr Dorianne Spiteri

Dr John Thake

Professor Alex Torpiano

Dr Josef Trapani

Dr Mark Anthony Vassallo

Professor Peter Vassallo

Dr Katia Vella

Dr Mignonne Vella

Dr Sue Vella

Professor Edward Warrington

Professor Martin R. Zammit

Rev Dr Ray Zammit

Dr Christine Zerafa

Dr Katia Zammit

Mr Mark Laurence Zammit


Please note that the names of those who signed this position paper were made public by those who published the position paper, not by us.