Women in Malta should be entitled to safe and legal access to abortion, the Women's Rights Foundation called on Saturday.

Women's sexual and reproductive health and rights are recognised worldwide as a priority health issue, activists said during a news conference. 

Malta along with five other states in the world — El Salvador, the Vatican, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua — still refuse abortions to women under any circumstances, even if it is to save her life.

But the Women's Rights Foundation says it is high time Malta embraces basic rights, despite the vociferous opposition to abortion. 

Through a position paper, it advocated for all women in Malta to have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and explores areas through which good sexual and reproductive health can be achieved.

Academic Andreana Dibben and lawyer Lara Dimitrijevic called for the provision of access to safe and legal abortion to all women in Malta through the public health system and licensed private providers at least in the following circumstances:

  • To save a woman's life;
  • To preserve a woman's physical and mental health;
  • In cases of rape or incest;
  • In cases of fatal foetus impairment.

They called for the decriminalisation of abortion so that Maltese women who access abortion in other countries or through telemedicine do not face criminal proceedings and risk three years imprisonment especially when accessing local health services for possible post-abortion complications. 

They proposed an action plan to involve stakeholders from different fields and maximise participation of civil society and citizens.

Asked about how the WRF planned to convince both the Maltese community and political parties to be pro-choice, Dr Dibben said they would be organising “value-clarification workshops” explaining the matter.

“This is a human rights issue and it should not be decided by the majority,” she said.

This is a human rights issue and it should not be decided by the majority

"We all know abortion is a taboo subject. Nobody discusses it and people are afraid," Dr Dibben said.

Dr Dimitrijevic added that people would often be afraid of sharing their true opinions on abortion through telephone surveys out of fear of being identified.

Among others, they called for the need to develop family, school and community-based sexuality education and awareness raising programmes and strategies that place gender equality and human rights at the centre and use methods that foster participation and critical thinking.

Call to eliminate restriction on contraceptives provision

Enable access to sexual and reproductive health services through a number of community-based clinics that provide services that are gender and age appropriate and that further conduct outreach for marginalised groups.

The provision of sexuality education and SRH services should be closely linked and their delivery should be combined with efforts to build awareness and acceptance for their provision among gatekeepers.

They called for the elimination of practical, financial and legal restrictions on the provision of contraceptives especially for young people and persons on low income.

"Subsiding contraception should be considered as a public health investment and should be extended for all brands and methods of modern contraception."

Requirements for third-party authorisation that impede access to contraception for adolescents under the age of 16 should be removed.

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