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  • Writer's pictureDoctors for Choice

Doctors for Choice turns 1!

Updated: May 9, 2020

Today is our first anniversary since the public launch of Doctors for Choice Malta.

Sterling work is done in healthcare in Malta, but when it comes to reproductive health and abortion access there continues to be complete disregard of the highest international medical guidance. COVID-19 has made matters worse. This is not acceptable. We look forward to a future where this is rectified. Until then women continue to suffer the consequences.

Watch Dr Gilbert Gravino explain this in more detail in the video below.

We established and launched ‘Doctors for Choice Malta’ a year ago, on the 2nd of May 2019. The organisation was set up to address a very serious public health and human rights issue - an issue with huge implications on the health of many people. There is no doubt that if the negative impact of the current laws had an equal effect on all, men included, the present circumstances would be very different.

Doctors for Choice was not set up to antagonise any other organisation, but rather to challenge the status quo. Personally, I got involved in public health activism because I am not happy with the status quo and I know that this is not safe and not fair for people in Malta. Ultimately, our call is a call for safety. For this reason, we will not let anything stifle progress and we will not let the discussion be shut down by intimidation or dishonest tactics - we least expect this from people in power, politicians, academics, and healthcare professionals.

There are proven better health outcomes from access to safe abortion and proven detrimental effects from the lack of abortion access! Frankly, what we are saying and advocating for as Doctor for Choice, should have been tackled many years ago by the respective medical and health authorities. Malta’s community has been given the impression that it is somehow acceptable to disregard the highest international medical guidance on reproductive health. We’ve all become very familiar with an attitude where everything goes and anything is acceptable; an attitude that is not acceptable by any standard and that has led to tragic outcomes - an environment that’s been abused, tragedies on constructions sites, the worst forms of corruption, the assassination of a journalist, etc. If we were to have this kind of approach to medical guidance as doctors, we would be rightly deemed unworthy of our profession. Yet, Malta falling short of international medical standards when it comes to abortion has been tolerated and become the norm. The idea that this is acceptable comes under the pretence and the excuse of some sort of morally superior cultural heritage, a large part of which happens to be religious heritage.

Malta’s laws even prohibit abortion when a woman’s life is in danger from a pregnancy. There is no pride to take in such laws. Decent politicians would ensure that these be changed in order to protect women, leaving no room for mistakes to be made. There’s been mistakes made in other countries specifically because of abortion being illegal with devastating outcomes. Women’s lives have been lost.

Pregnant persons in Malta are deprived of making their own decision and having control over their own lives, their own health, and their own body. As if a doctor, the politician or the elite are somehow morally superior or know the circumstances of these individuals better than the women themselves. As a doctor myself, I find this very disrespectful towards women and I cannot support this approach. If as doctors we think that we can know our patients better than they know themselves or understand their circumstances better than they do themselves, then we are making a huge mistake. There might have been a time in the past when this approach was applied to healthcare, where the doctors know it all and patients assumed to know nothing or very little. Thankfully we have moved away from those methods as a profession, but not when it comes to reproductive health and abortion in Malta…an exception that’s lasted for way too long.

From my own experience supporting and working with women within Doctors for Choice, people in these situations feel unsupported by their healthcare system, unsupported by their social networks, and unsupported by the legal system. As a result, they feel unsafe, anxious and betrayed by the system that is supposedly there to protect them. Will the politicians hear them out or will they continue ignoring them and treating them as if they were second class citizens?

Our message as Doctors for Choice to all those of you who may have been, could be in the future or are currently being directly affected by these laws is that this is your fight. Do not let anyone else fight it for you. Everyone is affected by the lack of abortion access because this is also about the well-being of a population at large, but it remains the prerogative of those of you who are directly affected by the complete abortion ban in Malta. I support you whole heartedly and Doctors for Choice is here to do its part. You will fight for your rights, you will win, you will be on the right side of history and you will be proud of yourselves. This will make everyones lives so much better because it gives you and everyone else the right to be autonomous. Do not be passive, join in, unite and keep demanding change until you get what you deserve.

By Dr Gilbert Gravino - Doctors for Choice Malta

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