A woman’s place doesn’t have to be in the Nursery

Malta’s history with women and reproduction is dicey. I don’t need to go into our history with sexual and reproductive health and rights when it comes to the termination of pregnancies, because this reality is one that we all know too well. Termination of pregnancies are simply not an option on the table for women in Malta – be it a termination due to an unviable pregnancy, a termination due to a severe fatal anomaly such as anencephaly or a termination due to simple choice. All options remain unavailable to Maltese women.

I could write at length about this subject. I can tell you all about the women I know of who have had to carry wanted pregnancies to term knowing that they will give birth to someone who will live for less than 48 hours and will only know a life of excruciating pain. I can tell you all about the women who have had to be airlifted to other countries, so that they won’t die from septicaemia due to their pregnancies going wrong. I can tell you all about the women who have had to suffer in absolute silence and resort to back street abortions after being violently and viciously raped. But as a reader, you probably already know all of that. Maybe you choose to believe that other things are more important, or maybe you choose to ignore all that. But that doesn’t make these women suffer any less.

So if the majority of society insists on adopting such a restrictive stance to choice and necessity when it comes to terminations of pregnancies, then the least we should do is increase the choices for contraception. If, as a society, by deduction of the majority stance, we want the 300 women who get abortions in Malta every year to stop resorting to abortions, then surely the natural choice should be to increase the amount of options available on the market which would prevent pregnancy in the first place. But it is not.

The natural choice should be to increase the amount of options available on the market which would prevent pregnancy in the first place.

For example, in Malta, women who are looking to opt for tubal ligation or tube sterilisation, are forced to either pay 1,000 – 3,000 EUR at a private clinic, or are unable to access the procedure due to age and the number of children they have. In practice, practitioners speaking to local media have also said that the procedure is only undertaken for specific and limited medical reasons. Additionally the same report also noted that currently no long term contraceptive methods such as pills, rings, progestogen injections, coils, implants or sterilisation are available under Malta’s national health service.

This needs to change.

In the last 10 years women have had to beg for the right not to be baby-bearers. Be it the fight for a condom machine at the University of Malta, the fight for the introduction of emergency contraceptives on the market, or the fight for access to the mirena coil – women always find themselves having to fight to convince people that they shouldn’t be forced into pregnancy.

And this just needs to end.

Malta has a clear abrasion to the concept of abortion, and many argue that this is down to their personal convictions on when life begins. But if this is truly the case, and it isn’t the case that we would like to control women’s bodies and dictate how others lead their lives, then as a society we should not have any issue with ensuring that everyone has affordable access to the full range of pregnancy preventive measures.

Not every woman wants to be a mother – and this is a reality that we need to accept.

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