We refer to ‘Inciting murder of the unborn” (October 6) in which senior colleagues call for the police to investigate us for providing information and support to those persons in Malta who seek an abortion. This is preposterous.
We have absolutely no qualms letting people know exactly how to order pills online, how to take them and what complications are possible as well as the precautions they need to take to avoid them. We do this because we are medical professionals and are obliged to provide every support possible to any person that needs our help.
We also expect any doctor who puts patients’ well-being before their own personal beliefs to do the same.
We are accused of misleading the public about the safety of medical abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth.
These tablets are safer than many over-the-counter medications that can be purchased without a prescription. Indeed, obtaining medical abortion pills from reputable websites, such as Women on Web, is a safe and reliable way to end a pregnancy. What is demonstrably unsafe is the use of progesterone to reverse an abortion once this has started, as advertised by LifeNetwork Foundation, presumably with the assistance of medical professionals.
Imagine a victim of domestic violence who chooses to have an abortion and is reported to the police by her partner. A doctor who has no qualms prescribing abortion reversal pills would likely have no qualms colluding with others to force someone to take them. Truly despicable.
Ironically, doctors in Malta are free to prescribe such unlicensed treatment that can kill women and, yet, none of us is free to prescribe licensed and proven-safe medical abortion pills. Or, rather, we are free to prescribe them if we wish to go to jail for four years and have our medical licence revoked.
May we remind our medical colleagues that the very same Royal Colleges of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and General Practice, of which they are Members or Fellows, endorse full access to abortion care and expect their members to embrace these principles and fight for them whenever they are lacking. This is because abortion care is healthcare and we are firstly medical doctors.
Rather than requesting legal action be taken against colleagues who follow evidence-based guidelines published by international organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Federation of International Associations of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (FIGO), may we suggest they redirect their efforts to providing evidence to persuade these prestigious organisations to change their stance on abortion policy. We are not holding our breath until this happens.
Doctors are entitled to their own religious beliefs but patients expect to access evidence-based healthcare when they see a doctor
The reason that international organisations issue evidence-based guidelines on best practice such as how and when to initiate treatment, which medicines or procedures are best in different situations, is that patients suffer when doctors decide to ignore these guidelines for spurious reasons. This is precisely why the WHO and FIGO recommend full decriminalisation and legalisation of abortion care for anyone who needs it, including women, girls, trans men and others.
Doctors are entitled to their own religious beliefs but patients expect to access evidence-based healthcare when they see a doctor. On what basis do our esteemed colleagues choose to deliberately ignore evidence-based guidelines for abortion? Why follow guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure or diabetes or COVID but not for abortion care?
We wonder whether those who choose to ignore such guidelines on abortion also ignore other healthcare management guidelines. If so, they are truly dangerous.
Many women in Malta are afraid to speak to their doctors for fear of finding someone ready to impose their beliefs on others, of having a doctor ready to report them for needing an abortion, or facing rejection instead of empathy and understanding. This is precisely why Doctors for Choice set up a free Abortion Doula Service. People call us on 2034 1683 as they know we will always help them, give them abortion advice according to best practice and will never judge them. This is the standard of medical care they deserve.
So, yes, we aid and abet abortion because it is a health procedure like any other. It is the right thing to do. And we will continue to do this until abortion in Malta is legalised and treated like the healthcare procedure it actually is.
Christopher Barbara, Natalie Psaila and Isabel Stabile are members of Doctors for Choice (Malta).