Pro-choice groups have warned that women in Malta are being targeted with “deception and intimidation” to prevent them from accessing legal abortion care overseas.

The Abortion Support Network (ASN), the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) and Voice for Choice Malta, claimed women in Malta had reported anti-abortion groups impersonating abortion service providers and providing false information about travelling to England for an abortion.

In a joint statement, the groups said women had also received abusive text messages and even had people show up at their home to dissuade them from having an abortion.

They warned that by attempting to block women’s access to safe, legal care overseas, women would be delayed and forced to undergo procedures at a later gestation, at an increased cost, or may resort to using abortion pills purchased online, illegally, risking up to three years imprisonment.

Read: Abortion Support Network expands service to Malta

“One group shared women’s phone numbers and e-mail addresses with an anti-abortion group in Ireland,” Abortion Support Network founder Mara Clarke said.

“Another person pretended to be an employee from an abortion clinic and told a young woman she needed to delay her procedure by two months (by which time it would have been too late for her to get an abortion in England).

“Another anti-abortion activist, after pretending she would help a woman get an abortion, sent her abusive text messages and visited her home trying to dissuade her from having an abortion.

“Two of the women we heard from were in quite vulnerable situations and it is despicable that these organisations would prey upon women in this way.”

Read: 'Women should have access to abortion in at least four circumstances'

The groups warned women they were likely to be speaking to an anti-abortion organisation if they were told that abortion causes breast cancer, mental health issues, or infertility; if they were told to get a scan in Malta; asked for their home address; or contacted from an Irish phone number (+353).

“While we respect the right of individuals and organisations to be against abortion, we draw the line at using scare tactics, lies, and intimidation,” they said.

Abortion Support Network is a UK-based charity providing financial assistance, practical information and accommodation to those living in countries with restrictive abortion laws, and expanded its services to Malta last February.

Voice for Choice, a Maltese coalition of pro-choice groups, was set up in March to work for reproductive rights and justice in Malta.