The Situation of Rape Victims
What is a D&C ('raxkament')? Is it really used for rape victims in Malta? Are rape victims really ‘cleaned out’ ('imnaddfin') or have semen sucked out if they go to hospital? Is the morning-after pill (MAP) available at Mater Dei Hospital?
A dilation and curettage procedure, also called a D&C ('raxkament'), is a surgical procedure. The lower part of the uterus (the cervix) is first expanded. Tools are then used to scrape the inner lining of the uterus and the contents are scooped out with a spoon-shaped instrument. The patient can be given general anaesthetic ("iraqqduk kollok") or local anaesthetic ("tibqa’ mqajma").
This procedure can be used to find out why a woman has heavy periods, to check if there’s cancer and more. A D&C is required if small pieces of the placenta remain inside after a miscarriage or after childbirth, since these can give rise to an infection. Occasionally, a suction D&C is done if the fetus does not come out on its own in a miscarriage.
Rape victims are not treated with a D&C. In fact, women scheduled for a D&C are warned not to have any sex from the time of their last period till the day of the procedure. This is a rule that doctors in Malta stick to strictly. If there’s any suggestion of the woman having had intercourse in this interval, the procedure is postponed. A negative pregnancy test does not help since it may not show pregnancy in the earliest stages. It is illegal in Malta to end a pregnancy at any stage. Doctors who ignore this law risk losing their licence and can get a 4-year jail sentence.
The use of D&C or being ‘cleaned out’ as a treatment option for rape victims is NOT true.
The morning-after pill (MAP) was approved by authorities in Malta almost 3 years ago. Unfortunately, it's STILL NOT available at Mater Dei Hospital, even against payment. Rape victims, who may be admitted to hospital, often cannot go to a pharmacy and buy it. They have to rely on relatives to buy it for them once shops outside the hospital open, and not all victims have someone to help them out. We know that the longer the MAP is delayed, the less likely it is to work, and with abortion in Malta being illegal even in cases of rape, the MAP is the victims' only hope of avoiding an unwanted birth.