Updated 10.45am 

Natalie Psaila, a specialist in family medicine and co-founder of a pro-choice NGO, is the first Maltese woman to make it to the BBC’s list of 100 most inspirational and influential women from around the world in 2023. 

The BBC's list, revealed on Tuesday includes attorney and former US First Lady Michelle Obama, British-Lebanese human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, and US feminist leader Gloria Steinem.

It also features women who are popular in the entertainment and culture world, such as Heartstopper writer Alice Oseman, and Justina Miles, a deaf performer who signed the lyrics to Rihanna’s 2023 Super Bowl performance.

The BBC 100 Women team drew up a shortlist based on names they gathered with the help of colleagues across the corporation. The nominated women made headlines, had inspiring stories, achieved something significant or influenced their societies in ways that would not necessarily make the news. 

"Malta has some of the strictest rules on abortion in Europe and Natalie Psaila helps women who need information and advice," the BBC wrote.

"Psaila says the near total ban in Malta, where terminations are only allowed if a woman's life is at risk, means women take pills without medical supervision. She has established a helpline that gives support to women before, during and after abortion."

Psaila co-founded Doctors for Choice Malta and has been an advocate to decriminalise and legislate abortion in Malta, and to have better access to contraception. 

She is one of the two doctors who launched a helpline for pregnant women who wish to discuss their abortion options in Malta or abroad.  

She also published a sex education book aimed at 10 to 13-year-olds called My Body’s Fantastic Journey, to help improve knowledge of reproductive health in the country. 

Speaking to Times of Malta Psaila said she is honoured to be included in the list and to be the first Maltese person to be selected. 

"I’m glad that the hardship and struggles of women, girls and all those who can get pregnant in Malta are being recognized and highlighted through this distinction," she said.

"I note that I am listed under the Science, Health and Tech category, which correctly supports our insistence as Doctors for Choice that abortion care is indeed healthcare."

She said her inclusion in the list as a Maltese person working to improve the situation of reproductive healthcare provision and education highlights the dire situation in the country. 

Malta remains some of the strictest abortion rules in the world, forbidding it in all circumstances, including rape. 

In June, the government presented the revamped abortion bill, where women will be allowed to have an abortion if their life is at immediate risk or their health is in ‘grave jeopardy which may lead to her death’. 

Previously, doctors who terminated a pregnancy risked criminal prosecution.

Critics of the law say it will endanger women’s lives and discourage doctors from carrying out terminations when needed, as any health-related terminations that are not deemed life-threatening must be approved by three medical specialists.

Psaila called on the government to recognise the severity of the situation and to take immediate action to redress the harm that those who can get pregnant in Malta are facing.

"Women are suffering right now," she said, adding that next week she will be lobbying Members of the European Parliament about the dismal situation in Malta. 

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