Make it legal, accessible, local, and free

If we want to live in a just society, we need to ensure that we can all choose if, when, and with whom to have children.

Until last year, abortion in Malta was illegal in all circumstances, even when the life of the pregnant person was at risk. The situation in Malta today is that abortion is allowed only when a pregnant woman is at risk of dying and, even then, three different specialists must first agree upon it. 

A woman who has an abortion in Malta could face a maximum of three years in prison. This makes Malta’s abortion law the most inhumane in the whole European Union.

Abortion is also a social justice issue. Our law is further marginalising the most vulnerable in our society. Having to travel abroad for healthcare is dreadful and discriminates against individuals who are unable to do so, such as:

  • people with mobility issues
  • people who cannot afford to travel
  • those seeking asylum
  • women in abusive relationships

Just last year, a woman was prosecuted for having an abortion after being reported to the police by her abusive partner. Our abortion law is cowardly, disrespectful, and dangerous.

At a rally held in front of Malta’s Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels last Thursday – in collaboration with Maltese Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer – I spoke about the powerful message carried by our banner – the same one used in last year’s pro-choice rally in Malta. The slogan on the banner, ‘Kulħadd iħobb lil xi ħadd li għamel abort’ translates to ‘Everyone loves someone who had an abortion’. We chose this slogan last year to highlight the fact that abortion in Malta is so common that it is very possible that we all love someone who has had an abortion.

Despite the ban, at least one person a day in Malta – a country with a population of half a million – uses abortion pills to self-manage an abortion at home. We know that people who need abortions come from all backgrounds and all walks of life, ages, faiths, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Girls, women, non-binary individuals, and trans men can all need and have abortions. People with disabilities have abortions. Catholic women have abortions, in the same way that others of different religions or no faith do. 

Claria Cutajar

Abortion bans and the criminalisation of women and other pregnant people do not, and will never, stop abortions, and Malta is no exception. Because of our current law, people who need an abortion in Malta are left scared, feeling guilty and ashamed, stigmatised, and shunned. 

While it is not only women who need abortions, we can also understand that access to abortion is a feminist issue, and the abortion ban is a form of female oppression. It is for this reason that we are demanding the right to choose, even having to travel to Brussels to voice the plight of Maltese women. No government, State, judge, religious institution, man, or person should tell a woman what to do with her body and, even more obviously, should not put her health and life in danger.

Malta’s criminalisation of abortion, the stigma, the lack of proper information and support, as well as the hateful comments from policymakers are hurtful and harmful. Abortions should be legal, accessible, local, and free. No one should be forced to remain pregnant against their will. If we want to live in a just society, we need to ensure that we can all choose if, when, and with whom to have children. 

If the Government in Malta truly cares about people’s health, life, and well-being, abortion must be decriminalised. It is high time that we are no longer criminalised for doing what is best for ourselves – our bodies, our health, our families, and our lives. The government in Malta is turning its back on human rights and women’s rights and we are asking the European Union institutions to do everything they can in their capacity to support us.

We will continue to fight so that women and pregnant people in Malta are no longer treated as second-class citizens.

Claria Cutajar is an activist of Moviment Graffitti

Photos: David Mallia

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CJohn Zammit
CJohn Zammit
1 month ago

Ms. Cutajar mentions, “the lack of proper information”.

The biggest misinformation that was thrown at me, about five years ago when this issue made it to social media, was that the Women’s Rights Foundation needed a pregnant woman who was denied abortion to be able to challenge the anti-abortion law in Court. That is, whoever wanted to challenge the law, had to have a “personal interest”.

Not being a Maltese lawyer, I had accepted that to be factual. As it turned out, it is misinformation, and at best, a misunderstanding of our Constitution — the Supreme Law of Malta.

Article 116 of our Constitution empowers every Maltese citizen to challenge the validity of the anti-abortion law, because it breaches Article 32 — which guarantees every woman the right to her “life, liberty, security of the person”; and her “privacy” — and therefore, it is void, as per Article 6. No proof of “personal interest” is required!

It is worth noting that, there are no fetal rights in our Constitution!
Rights are of the individual, not of the Church, nor of majorities!

If Ms. Cutajar and Graffitti want to liberate Maltese women, the proper forum is the Constitutional Court!

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