1 Abortion Rights News Articles from 2021 Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
1-9-21 Covid: Locked-down women turn to pills amid Malta abortion ban Catholic Malta has the strictest ban on abortion in the EU, but during the pandemic more Maltese women have been ordering abortion pills from abroad, unable to travel because of the lockdown. Veronica - not her real name - was among them. "It was a big burden for me. I already have two kids with learning difficulties. I came off the [contraceptive] pill, as the doctor suggested I switch to an IUD for health reasons. I was waiting for the appointment, but Covid came and cancelled all the hospital appointments." Not long after that Veronica got pregnant. "I had to decide what is best for me and the children," she says. "The best for my health, the best financially… plus the father immediately told me to abort." Abortion is completely illegal in Malta, even if the woman's life is at risk. Without the option of travelling abroad, Veronica didn't know what to do. She contacted local women's rights activists, who put her in touch with a foreign NGO. It was through them that Veronica was able to safely get hold of abortion pills, which can be taken up to the 12th week of pregnancy. Abortion is a crime in Malta, punishable by up to three years' prison for the woman herself and anybody who may have assisted her. An estimated 300-400 Maltese women travel abroad every year to get an abortion, usually to the UK. But pandemic travel restrictions have made this option far less viable. The Abortion Support Network (ASN) is a UK-based charity offering information and funding to cover the cost of travel and accessing abortion. It had 110 Maltese requests in 2020 - up from 75 the previous year, when it first opened up services to the Maltese. According to ASN founder Mara Clarke, the pandemic has been a social leveller. "When they close the airport and you live on an island, suddenly it gives everybody a taste of what it means to live in a place where there is a horrible abortion law." It is not clear if the rise in requests is down to increased numbers of women wanting abortions, or increased awareness that help is out there.