Dr Natalie Psaila: Why I'm Pro-Choice
Good morning. My name is Dr Natalie Psaila. I’m a GP and I’m prochoice.
My job as a GP is to keep my patients healthy. To quote the World Health Organisation, health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. This means that I discuss with my patients all those factors that affect their health, which includes disease, psychological difficulties and quality of life. I also look at how a patient’s lack of health affects their family, friends and community.
Currently, Maltese law criminalises abortion, and this affects many women residing in Malta. The law limits their options and potentially forces them down a route in life which they do not wish to follow. Some manage to go abroad and get an abortion done there. Many more do not have the means to travel. Imagine being unable to meet the expenses involved, or you might have young children that depend on you and you can’t go abroad. Or your family might be very much against this choice, so you wouldn’t even dream of considering getting on a flight to have an abortion. Essentially, you become trapped in a life-changing situation, one that you just cannot get out of.
I see these women’s struggles and I observe the long-term consequences on their health. Let me tell you more how forced motherhood affects these women.
Some get caught in a lengthy, sometimes lifelong, cycle of abuse, unable to escape their violator. They get called out for breaking the family if they try to leave the abuser. They’re asked to stay for their children.
Others end up with serious financial constraints. This is especially true for young, unmarried girls or women who might have not even finished their schooling. If they manage to get support from their families, things might turn out better for such women. Even so, it’s stressful for the woman, her child and any family or friends providing shelter. It’s common for these families to spiral down into a poor social status that’s difficult to improve without significant external help.
My heart goes out to those who are coerced into becoming mothers when they are psychologically fragile. For these women, mandatory pregnancy means a breakdown of their mental health. They may have to undergo therapy, stay on medication and perhaps even be hospitalised. Later, I see them trying to be the best they can for their child while keeping their life together. Sometimes they manage, sometimes they don’t, to the detriment of the entire family, and hence our society.
I’m a witness to these women’s trials and more. I’m saddened to think that if abortion were legally accessible in Malta, life would look so different for these women.
When speaking to my patients, I want to be able to offer all options. It’s what I do in all of my consultations. I always let my patient take the final decision. But when it comes to something as life-changing as pregnancy, I’m limited in my management options, which in turn, restricts my patient severely.
This is why I’m prochoice. I want to give my patients the power to choose the trajectory of their lives. They’re more than capable to do it.
By Dr Natalie Psaila