A record number of abortion pills - 424- were sent to Malta this year, the pro-choice organisation Doctors for Choice claimed on Monday.
The organisation said 356 pills were sent in 2021.
“As an abortion rights organisation based in Malta, we consider the increase in abortion pill packs sent to Malta by reputable online telemedicine providers to be a positive thing,” Doctors for Choice said in a statement.
Remote abortion services work by filling out an online medical consultation that is reviewed by a doctor. A prescription is then issued, and the pills are sent to the patient with instructions on how to use them, the statement said.
Doctors for Choice said its data amalgamates figures from the two main telemedicine providers that deliver to Malta, Women on Web, and Women help Women.
There has been a steady increase in the number of pills sent to Malta. In 2017, 93 pills were sent. That figure rose steadily until 2019 and then more than doubled in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted travel.
And although pandemic travel restrictions have now been lifted, 2022 still saw a 19% increase in mail-order abortion pills.
“The more people use these telemedicine services, the fewer people are falling victim to unsafe backstreet abortions, scams, or overpriced providers,” Doctors for Choice said.
Malta is the only EU country with a blanket ban on abortion. It is considered to be a criminal act. However, no woman or doctor has received an effective jail sentence in the last 25 years, according to the Doctors for Choice website.
Abortion has become a hotly contested issue in Malta after the case of US tourist Andrea Prudente, who was denied a termination at 16-weeks, even though the pregnancy was non-viable.
She was eventually medically evacuated to Spain, where doctors carried out the procedure.
The incident has sparked the government to introduce a bill allowing abortion should the mother’s life or health be in “grave” danger.
The Nationalist party, the Church, and pro-life NGOs have widely condemned the bill, saying it is tantamount to the introduction of abortion on demand.
Thousands gathered in Valletta to protest the amendment early in December. A church-commissioned survey showed that almost 70% of Maltese adults oppose abortion when a woman's life is not at risk.
The survey did not ask respondents whether they agreed with abortion when the mother’s health is at risk.
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