Doctors for Choice
Exporting the problem: Why abortion should be legal in Malta
Legalising abortion in Malta will not mean introducing abortion to Malta. Abortion is already here, and Maltese women are already having abortions. Malta is not an exception to the world. It is not a country where women do not have abortions. Rather, it is a country that exports its abortion problem to other countries.
Each year at least three hundred women in Malta will have an abortion. There are many reasons why women have abortions, including being a victim of rape, having the fetus diagnosed with a serious disorder, or deciding that now is not the time to give birth. Despite the law that prohibits abortion for any reason, these women in Malta will have an abortion one way or another.
Those women who can afford it can travel to an abortion clinic abroad, pay the airfare, accommodation fees, and the clinic fee for a surgical abortion, and have the abortion done legally outside of Malta. Contrary to what some people think, having an abortion abroad is legal, as long as the rules of the country where the abortion happens are adhered to. Each country has a different abortion law, and the law that applies is that of the country where the abortion happens.
Those women who are not fortunate enough to afford a trip to an abortion clinic abroad will have to use telemedicine services provided by organisations like Women on Web, receive the abortion pills in the post, and use them in Malta. These women are, in theory at least, committing a crime because abortion is illegal in Malta, even though no woman has gone to prison for having an abortion in the last twenty five years.
It is therefore not correct to say that just because abortion is illegal in Malta, it is not happening in Malta. Abortion is here, and it is a reality. It is equally not correct to say that Malta is an example to the world because our maternal mortality rates are low despite abortion being prohibited. Women in Malta are having abortions, but instead of being helped by the Maltese state they are being helped by overseas abortion clinics and online telemedicine services.
The prohibition on abortion does not stop abortion from happening, but it only makes it less safe, more expensive, and more inconvenient for the women and girls who need it. By exporting our problem, by having women travel to abortion clinics abroad, and importing solutions, by having women order abortion pills online from abroad, politicians are failing our women by turning a blind eye to their needs and not providing the service they need locally.
The status quo is nothing but an injustice, where those who can afford it can get quality care in a clinic abroad and have an abortion legally, whereas those who cannot afford it have to have an abortion on their own, in fear, and possibly face criminal sanctions if discovered. It is time to end this injustice by making sure women and girls in Malta who need an abortion can get the healthcare they need for free and legally in Malta.