Exclusive: How people in Malta went online for abortion
Updated: Jul 20
Note: This is the first time Women Help Women's figures have been added to those of Women on Web, and this article therefore gives a more complete picture of how many women in Malta are ordering abortion pills than articles published previously.
The last few years have seen many services shift online, and abortion care was one of them. According to the World Health Organisation's guidance on abortion care, which was updated in 2020 in response to the pandemic, it is considered safe for pregnant people to receive abortion pills and use them at home without the need for direct medical supervision in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.
As the safety of having an abortion at home became clear, online abortion services gained popularity. In countries where abortion was already legal, this led to women avoiding travel to abortion clinics and having the option of managing their own abortion in the privacy of their home. In countries where abortion was illegal, online abortion services allowed women to obtain abortion pills without having to travel to clinics abroad.
The two main online abortion providers for people in Malta are Women on Web and Women Help Women. Figures disclosed to us by both these providers show a manifold increase in the number of abortion pill kits in the last five years. Here are the numbers:
In 2017, 93 abortion pill kits were sent to Malta. In 2018, the number was roughly stable at 92 kits. In 2019, 128 abortion pill kits were sent to Malta, indicating the beginning of a rise in popularity of online abortion services. Then the pandemic started, and as expected this led to a dramatic increase in numbers. In 2020, 289 abortion pill kits were sent to Malta and in 2021 the number rose to 356.
Total number of abortion pill kits sent by Women on Web and Women Help Women
So has the increase in number of abortion pill kits led to a corresponding decrease in the number of people travelling abroad for an abortion? The figures released by the UK government, which reveal the number of people from Malta who have an abortion in England and Wales each year, suggest that less people from Malta are travelling to abortion clinics abroad. Here are the UK government figures:
Number of abortions in England and Wales by people from Malta
While these figures do suggest that the number of people from Malta travelling to clinics abroad has decreased, they have to be interpreted with caution. England and Wales have become less popular as abortion destinations for women in Malta, particularly since ID cards are no longer accepted for entry into the UK and people may struggle to get a passport at short notice. Schengen area countries such as the Netherlands, France, Italy, and Spain, are popular destinations for abortion care, and may have gained popularity in recent years due to Brexit. Unfortunately, none of these countries provide statistics on how many people in Malta have abortions in their territories.