Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists calls for the decriminalisation of abortion
In a position statement, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has called for the decriminalisation of abortion worldwide, and has called for governments around the world to take steps to decriminalise abortion.
The RCOG has an important role in the training and accreditation of obstetricians and gynaecologists in Malta, with trainee gynaecologists sitting for examinations to become Members of the RCOG before taking up a role as a consultant. Some Maltese gynaecologists take their credentials with the RCOG further and become Fellows of the college.
In the same position statement, the RCOG has also endorsed the World Health's Organisation earlier position that self-managed abortion is a safe and effective method of abortion for people who are up to twelve weeks pregnant. Self-managed abortion refers to an abortion carried out by the pregnant person themselves, usually by taking abortion pills at home, and with little to no intervention from doctors unless a complication arises. It is a very common method of abortion in Malta, where abortion is illegal and not provided in hospitals or clinics.
The RCOG stated that self-managed abortion provides a way for women to have an abortion safely, without having to resort to dangerous abortion methods or untrained providers. However, it is important for abortion to also be made legal to protect women from the harms of unsafe abortions, and this underpins the RCOG's call for abortion to be decriminalised in all countries including Malta.
The RCOG also called for an environment that enables safe-managed abortions. This includes giving women accurate information on how to access abortion medication and how to use them safely, the availability of quality-assured and affordable abortion medication, a health care system that can support women at all stages of the abortion process, and legal changes to ensure self-managed abortion is legal.
In Malta, information on safe abortion is given by our Family Planning Advisory Service, because we share the RCOG's view that this helps to protect women from unsafe or dangerous abortion methods or providers. Authentic medicine is supplied by online telemedicine providers, and women who need to seek medical help are often told to present to the public hospitals and state that they are having a miscarriage. Unfortunately, the law continues to prohibit abortion in all circumstances.
It is also disappointing to note that despite the RCOG's unequivocal stance in favour of self-managed abortion and the decriminalisation of abortion, there are still some Maltese gynaecologists who are Members or Fellows of the RCOG who continue to defend the country's complete ban of abortion. Some of them are also opposing Bill 28 going through parliament that would protect a woman's life or health when she is experiencing a complication in pregnancy. As doctors we are called to practice evidence-based medicine and to follow the guidance of medical authorities. We should not try to impose our personal or religious beliefs on patients by impeding their access to healthcare, including abortion care, especially when this is contrary to established international guidelines.