Exclusive: Record number of people in Malta ordered abortion pills online in 2022
Abortion telemedicine services are revolutionising the delivery of abortion care around the world. In countries where abortion is illegal, such as Malta, these services are enabling women to terminate their own pregnancy in the privacy of their own home and prevent the disruption and costs the woman would face if she were forced to travel to a clinic abroad. They also help to keep women safe from dangerous backstreet abortions.
Abortion telemedicine services work by allowing people to fill in an online medical consultation which is then reviewed by a doctor. If the doctor deems it safe to proceed with an abortion with pills, as will be the case with the vast majority of pregnancies of less than 12 weeks, a prescription is issued and the pills are sent to the patient with instructions on how to use them.
Data that has been disclosed to us by the two main abortion telemedicine services to Malta - Women on Web and Women help Women - shows that these services have continued to gain popularity in 2022 compared to previous years. In 2022, a total of 424 abortion pill packs were sent to Malta, up from 356 packs the previous year and representing a 19.1% increase year-on-year.
Total number of abortion pill kits sent to Malta by Women on Web and Women Help Women
This year was also the year most restrictions on travel related to the pandemic were abolished. The sustained increase in abortion pill packs sent to Malta in 2022 indicates that the growth in popularity of online telemedicine services is a permanent one, and not simply a temporary trend during the pandemic. More people in Malta are choosing to order abortion pills online and use them in the privacy of their homes, because this is less disruptive and less costly than having to travel to a clinic abroad. The shift of abortion care to telemedicine is not a phenomemon that is happening only in Malta. In fact, the World Health Organisation now recommends the option of telemedicine as an alternative to in-person interactions with the health worker to deliver medical abortion services in whole or in part.
As an abortion rights organisation based in Malta, we consider the increase in abortion pill packs sent to Malta by reputable online telemedicine providers to be a positive thing. Both Women on Web and Women Help Women ask their clients to complete online medical consultations, and ask a doctor to review the consultation before the medication is provided. Both these organisations charge reasonable donations, and are willing to sponsor people who are not able to afford the donation. These organisations also provide authentic medicines, proper instructions to people on how to use the pills, and are available to answer questions their clients may have. The more people use these telemedicine services, the less people are falling victim to unsafe backstreet abortions, scams, or overpriced providers.