Women have suffered the worst consequences of the pandemic, according to MP Marlene Farrugia, who on Wednesday called on pro-lifers and pro-choicers to come together over abortion. 

On Wednesday afternoon the independent MP took the House of Representatives by surprise when she tabled the draft legislation to decriminalise abortion, a first for Malta.

Her bill was welcomed as “historic” by pro-choice activists, while the Life Network Foundation said it was “shocked beyond belief”. Both the PL and PN will discuss the bill internally, MPs told Times of Malta.

Addressing journalists as she exited parliament, Farrugia said that the COVID-19 pandemic had negatively impacted a number of women, with the number of domestic violence reports increasing during lockdown. 

Marlene Farrugia and Godfrey Farrugia speak to journalists outside Parliament on Wednesday, after she put forward draft legislation on decriminalizing abortion

“Women have suffered the consequences of this pandemic. Women have had to try cope with their family, job, and abusers.”

There should never be conflict between pro-choice and pro-life- Independent MP Marlene Farrugia

Farrugia said that she had met a number of women who lost their jobs during the pandemic, while others struggled to juggle work and childcare. She was aware of several situations that proved the vulnerability of women.

“We need to have structures in our society that ensure women find the necessary help from the state but also from other women and professionals.

She told journalists that "women must come together so that future generations of men and women can live together in a much better society".

This was the time for pro-life and pro-choice women to come together, she said, adding that she saw no difference between the two groups.

“Conflict between pro-lifers and pro-choicers was created to divide women," she said.

She called for a society where women would not need to resort to abortion as they would have had proper access to prevention and education.

“We must come together so that women can truly have a choice and so that we can remove the stigma and prejudice that women face when they make their own choices.”

'Faith in women working together'

Asked whether the bill will make it through, she said she had faith in women who worked together.  

“I believe that if we come together, support women so that they can make their own choices, with the least impact on life, now and in the future, we would be able to bring about the necessary changes.”

When asked whether she was interested in joining Volt, which pushes for the decriminalisation of abortion, she said she has no interest in joining the political party. 

Godfrey Farrugia backs bill

Meanwhile, MP Godfrey Farrugia said he backed the legislation while sticking to his values. 

“I have always been in favour of life. I believe in life. I believe that women should not be discriminated and I believe that a law which criminalises women is not justifiable."

Under Malta's criminal code anyone who seeks or helps with an abortion can be sentenced from 18 months to three years in prison, even though prosecutions are rare. 

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