Exclusive: Requests for abortion help from Maltese women surge during pandemic
Data provided to us from the organisations Abortion Support Network and Women on Web shows that the number of women in Malta requesting abortion support from overseas charities has increased dramatically.
Abortion Support Network, a UK based charity that assists women with accessing overseas abortion clinics or abortion pills, has received 31 requests for help from women in Malta in March and April 2020. This averages to 15.5 requests a month, up from an average of 6.8 requests a month from Malta before the pandemic. This is a 2.3 times increase in the number of requests.
More striking is the data provided by Women on Web, a Dutch charity that provides abortion pills. At least 63 women from Malta have contacted them over the last two months. Their data comes with a caveat because it only captures those women who emailed the organisation at some point. Those women who only engaged with Women on Web's online consultation system are not included in this figure. Also not included in this figure are those women who sought abortion pills from other well known organisations like Women Help Women. This means that, at at the very least, one woman from Malta is requesting abortion pills online each day. The true figure is likely to be much higher.
If this rate is sustained, it would mean at least 366 women in Malta would have sought abortion pills online this year from Women on Web alone. This is much higher than our organisation's previous estimate of around 200 women purchasing abortion pills each year in total.
Also worth noting is that out of the 63 cases reported by Women on Web, 28 women reported not being able to travel as the reason for seeking abortion pills online. Another three disclosed being victims of domestic violence.
To a degree, an increase in numbers is to be expected considering that travel restrictions are preventing women from travelling for abortion. However, the figures show that the increase in the number of women seeking help is greater than one might expect, indicating that the number women suffering as a result of Malta's abortion ban is also greater than one might expect.
Women in Malta have suffered a de facto rollback of their reproductive rights due to the travel restrictions, and this goes against the recommendations of international bodies including World Health Organisation and the Commissioner for Human Rights. Women in Malta deserve better than this; they should be able to access abortion services in their own country.
By Dr Chris Barbara