Pro-choice activists gathered in Valletta on Saturday, calling for the decriminalisation of abortion and the provision of abortion services in the healthcare system. 

Holding banners reading 'pro-mother, pro-choice', the protesters chanted slogans such "not the church, not the state... women will decide their fate".

The manifestation comes two months after Malta changed its abortion laws for the first time, allowing doctors to terminate a pregnancy if a woman's life is at immediate risk or her health is in "grave jeopardy which may lead to her death".

Protesters held placards in support of abortion. Photo: Daniel TihnProtesters held placards in support of abortion. Photo: Daniel Tihn

The bill, which saw bi-partisan support, is a watered-down version of another bill presented initially late last year, sparking major disappointment among pro-choice activists.

"I'm here because it is not fair that women do not have a choice to end their pregnancy," biologist and activist Marie Claire Gatt said. 

"The reason someone with a uterus does not want to continue their pregnancy is their business," she said. 

Among those who attended were two members of the Labour Party's parliamentary group, Randolph De Battista and Cyrus Engerer. 

Speaking to those present, activist and academic Andrea Dibben from the Women's Rights Foundation explained why they the lawcourts were used as a backdrop.

She said protesters assembled at the courts after a mother and a victim of domestic violence was prosecuted by the police and charged with having an abortion.

"For us, you are not a criminal. You are our sister. You are one of us. Whoever you are, wherever you are, we are angry and disgusted with what you had to go through, and you have our support and solidarity," she said. 

She referred to politicians who said felt uncomfortable when a woman was charged in court for having an abortion but then had no problems passing a law "that plunges us further into the patriarchy".  

"Our presence reminds them that women in Malta are treated as second-class citizens because, for political motives, they continue to bury their heads in the sand and bow their heads to conservative lobbies," the pro-choice activist told crowds. 

"Your sister, your mother, your daughter, your wife, your cousin, your friend, your colleague, even your grandmother, might have had an abortion," she said. 

Labour Party MP and CEO Randolph De Battista and MEP Cyrus Engerer were among those who attended the protest.  

Cyrus Engerer and Randolph Debattista explain their position.

"Accessible, legal, and safe abortion means saving the lives of women or people who can have children," Engerer told Times of Malta. 

"The World Health Organisation says that access to healthcare including abortion, is a woman's right, and on that basis, I support those who are here," De Battista said. 

Engerer and De Battista are known to have felt disappointed by the PL government's decision to revise its abortion amendment. 

Photo: Daniel TihnPhoto: Daniel Tihn

De Battista said he will continue explaining that the taboo around abortion and the demonisation of activists is wrong. 

"The parliamentary group is always discussing where to go," he said, when asked if he felt the PL should change its position on abortion.  

The Voice for Choice coalition, a group of 14 pro-choice activist groups, used the slogan 'We all love someone who has had an abortion,' for the event, which marked International Safe Abortion Day. 

Four other activists, including Isabel Stabile from Doctors for Choice, spoke at the protest. 

"Abortion is the only healthcare issue handled alone without the support of doctors," she said. 

Andrea Dibben addresses the crowd. Photo: Daniel TihnAndrea Dibben addresses the crowd. Photo: Daniel Tihn

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