Information on how to get a safe abortion from Malta

Despite being considered essential healthcare around the world, abortion remains illegal in Malta in all circumstances due to a centuries-old abortion law that is still in force. The criminalisation of abortion means that many healthcare professionals in Malta will refuse to discuss termination of pregnancy options with their patients. Women have also reported negative experiences when they requested an abortion with certain Maltese gynaecologists. However, this does not stop hundreds of women in Malta from having abortions each year.

 

If you have an unwanted pregnancy, please know that you are not alone. Many women in Malta have been in your situation, and have managed to obtain a safe abortion with help from organisations and services mentioned below.

To get an abortion, women in Malta have to either travel to abortion clinics abroad, sometimes with the help of Abortion Support Network, or self-manage their abortion by ordering abortion pills online from reputable providers. Self-managed abortions using pills at home have become the most common method of abortion in most countries, including Malta.

When choosing between an abortion with pills at home and an abortion in a clinic abroad, keep the following in mind:
 

  • Carrying out your own abortion in Malta is illegal, although we are not aware of any woman being taken to court for ending her own pregnancy in recent years. By travelling abroad and having an abortion in a country where it is legal you will not be breaching any law, because there is nothing in Maltese law that criminalises abortions done abroad. When you are abroad the abortion law in that country will apply.
     

  • An abortion with pills can be carried out safely at home at any time up until 12 weeks of pregnancy. A surgical abortion is carried out from 8 weeks onward, up until the legal limit of abortion in that country (eg: the limit in the UK is 24 weeks in most cases, in the Netherlands it is 22-23 weeks).
     

  • An abortion with pills will usually cost you less than Euro 100, whereas prices for a surgical abortion start from Euro 800 in clinic fees alone. The fees for a surgical abortion increase the more advanced the pregnancy is. It is generally cheaper and more straightforward to have an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks when you can have an abortion with pills.
     

  • The complication rates of abortion with pills and surgical abortion are both low and similar in frequency. If you experience complications after using abortion pills in Malta, you can seek help from hospital by declaring that you are having a miscarriage. There is no test that can tell the difference between an abortion with pills and a natural miscarriage.

The following are pro-choice organisations and services that can provide more information on how to get an abortion from Malta, or provide abortion services to women in Malta:

The Family Planning Advisory Service (FPAS) is provided by pro-choice Maltese NGOs and has volunteers who can provide unbiased and reliable information on pregnancy options including abortion. Click here for information on how to contact them for free. You can call them on 20341686.

 

Women on Web and Women Help Women are organisations with a good reputation of sending authentic abortion pills to women in countries where abortion is restricted, including Malta. It is easy to order pills online from these organisations - you complete an online consultation on their website, pay a donation, and the abortion pills are shipped to your address. These organisations have medical professionals who can advise you before and during an abortion with pills. According to World Health Organisation guidance, abortion pills can be safely used at home up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. The main differences between Women on Web and Women Help Women are:

  • The donation amount is EUR 100 for Women on Web and EUR 75 for Women Help Women.

  • Delivery times are 1-2 weeks for Women on Web and just over 3 weeks for Women Help Women.

  • Women on Web provide tracking numbers for their packages, but Women Help Women do not.

 

Abortion Support Network (ASN) is a UK charity that assists women in Malta who would like to have an abortion in a clinic abroad. They can you find appropriate clinics that can provide an abortion at your stage of pregnancy, and can help you book flights or accommodation. They can even pay for part of your abortion travel and clinic costs if you cannot afford them. You can call ASN on 27780991. If they do not answer your call, leave a voice message and they will call you back.

 

You can find a list of overseas abortion clinics in Europe that accept women from Malta and work with Abortion Support Network here. You can also find a more complete list of European abortion clinics on abortion-clinics.eu. If you can pay privately for your abortion, you can contact a clinic directly and book an appointment. Indicative prices can be found here. When you contact an abortion clinic make sure you:

  • Ask about waiting times and appointment availability

  • Ask whether they can provide the treatment you need at your stage of pregnancy

  • Ask about the cost of treatment for overseas (private) clients

  • Ask about counselling options, if you need it

If you need financial assistance, contact Abortion Support Network on 27780991.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about abortion in Malta and abroad

Is abortion a safe procedure?


Abortions are very safe if they are done with a method recommended by WHO that is appropriate to the stage of pregnancy, and if the person providing the abortion (in case of abortions done in clinics) is trained. Such abortions can be done using pills or a simple outpatient procedure. Statistically, abortion is about 14 times less likely to result in death than childbirth. In 2020 the WHO updated its guidance to say women can safely take Mifepristone and Misoprostol at home up to 12 weeks of pregnancy as long as they are given instructions on how to use them and can go to hospital if needed. If you are going to have an abortion, make sure you seek help from reputable organisations like Women on Web, Women Help Women, or Abortion Support Network.




What is a medical abortion and how is it performed?


Medical abortion is the use of abortion pills (usually Mifepristone and Misoprostol, but Misoprostol can be used on its own) to end a pregnancy. It is a safe and effective way to end an early pregnancy. It is routinely used up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, although the World Health Organisation has updated its guidance in 2020 to say that women can safely take abortion pills at home up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Medical abortion results in the same physical process as a miscarriage. It usually involves the following steps: 1. Mifepristone 200mg tablet is taken. 2. 24 hours later four tablets of Misoprostol 200mcg (total dose: 800mcg) are placed under the tongue for 30 minutes. 3. Bleeding starts within a few hours of taking Misoprostol. If it does not, step 2 can be repeated.




When do most abortions occur?


When given the choice, women access abortion services as early as possible. In the UK, two thirds of abortion are carried out within the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, 80% until week 10 and 92% are carried out within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. If you have decided to terminate your pregnancy, you should have an abortion as soon as possible. The costs of having an abortion increase the more a pregnancy develops, especially after 12 weeks when the use of abortion pills at home is no longer recommended.




What is a fatal foetal anomaly and what are my options?


A diagnosis of a fatal foetal anomaly (or abnormality) means that a foetus will die in the womb, during delivery or shortly after birth. There are several diseases affecting the fetus that fall under the category of fatal fetal anomaly. It is a devastating diagnosis for a woman and her family to receive, and the women would have to decide whether to give birth or opt for (an often late term) abortion. In Malta, a woman facing these circumstances is expected to carry a pregnancy to term regardless of her own wishes. If she decides to end the pregnancy, she must travel to access abortion care elsewhere. In the UK there is no limit up to which an abortion can happen in cases of fatal foetal anomaly. Such terminations tend to be later in the pregnancy and are usually more expensive than earlier abortions. Contact Abortion Support Network by calling 27780991 to discuss your options.




Does a foetus feel pain during an abortion?


No. The scientific literature from respectable medical journals on this subject, including research by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), shows that the brain connections required to feel pain are not formed until at least 24 weeks. In the rare cases when abortion takes place after 22 weeks (due to fatal foetal anomaly or serious health risk for the pregnant woman), an injection is given to stop the foetal heartbeat before the procedure takes place.




What does the law in Malta say about abortion?


In Malta, abortion is banned under all circumstances. The Criminal Code of Malta states the following: Article 241 (1) Whosoever, by any food, drink, medicine, or by violence, or by any other means whatsoever, shall cause the miscarriage of any woman with child, whether the woman be consenting or not, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from eighteen months to three years. Article 241 (2) The same punishment shall be awarded against any woman who shall procure her own miscarriage, or who shall have consented to the use of the means by which the miscarriage is procured.’ Article 243 Any physician, surgeon, obstetrician, or apothecary, who shall have knowingly prescribed or administered the means whereby the miscarriage is procured, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from eighteen months to four years, and to perpetual interdiction from the exercise of his profession.’




Can someone be prosecuted in Malta if they have an abortion abroad?


No. If someone has an abortion in another country where abortion is legal, they cannot be prosecuted in Malta. There is nothing in the Criminal Code of Malta that criminialises having an abortion abroad. Every country has its own laws about abortion, and the law that applies is that of the country where the abortion takes place.




Can I be charged if I give information about abortion care services abroad?


No. In Malta there is no law criminalising the dissemination of information on abortion. In fact, the European Convention of Human Rights guarantees any person’s right to impart or receive information. This right is sanctioned in the Maltese Constitution. Maltese women thus have a right to receive information about abortion services, more so when these are legal in other countries that are party to the human rights convention.




Can a pregnant person be stopped from leaving Malta to terminate their pregnancy?


No. Adults cannot be prohibited from leaving the Maltese Islands even if the authorities know that they have intention to terminate a pregnancy.




Is it true that women who have abortions always regret it, or develop a mental illness?


No, the medical evidence is clear and agreed throughout the medical world. Abortion does not threaten or damage women’s mental health, at the time of abortion, or at any subsequent time. The most common feeling expressed after abortion is relief. Having an unwanted stress is associated with stress, but there is no scientific evidence that the procedure of abortion itself causes any mental illness.




What is the cost for a woman travelling abroad for an abortion?


Many countries provide abortion services for free or at subsidised rates as part of their healthcare system, but women from Malta travelling for an abortion usually pay privately between 800 Euro and 2000 Euro for a surgical abortion procedure, depending on how advanced the pregnancy is, with costs increasing substantially after 14 weeks. Apart from clinic costs, there are also child care costs, needing to take time off work, travel costs (flights, ferries, taxis), accommodation and food costs. If you need help booking an abortion abroad, or cannot afford all the costs, Abortion Support Network may be able to help you. You can call them on 27780991.




How many Maltese women have abortions?


Nobody knows the exact number, because the illegal status of abortion means that there are no official statistics on abortions in Malta.
Only the UK officially documents abortions from Malta, averaging 60 per year. We know through abortion pill providers that the number of women accessing the abortion pill online are increasing sharply, especially since 2020 when travel restrictions were implemented. We also know that women travel to the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Italy (Sicily in particular) and other countries and that some women don’t give their Maltese address at UK clinics. We estimate that at least each day, one Maltese woman will have an abortion but while abortion remains illegal, the figures we have will always be an estimate.




How can I get help if I want an abortion?


If you are less than 10 weeks pregnant you can contact Women on Web: www.womenonweb.org or Women Help Women: www.womenhelp.org and manage your own abortion with pills at home. Abortion pills can be used at home until 12 weeks of pregnancy, but since they are sent from abroad they take 1-3 weeks to arrive. Abortion Support Network ( www.asn.org.uk/malta/) is open to people in Malta who need to travel to obtain an abortion in a clinic abroad. Abortion Support Network offer information about the least expensive way to arrange your travel and procedure, financial and other forms of assistance where needed and advice on accommodation. They also offer phone counselling in needed through the organisation BPAS. You can contact ASN helpline ( +356 27780991), or email: malta@asn.org.uk. The website http://abortion-clinics.eu provides a comprehensive lists of clinics offering abortion services in EU countries. If you don't know where to start and you need to discuss your abortion options, you can contact the Family Planning Advisory Service: www.fpas.mt by calling 27782758.




I have taken abortion pills and I need medical help. What can I do?


Most (more than 90%) of women who use abortion pills in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy will not need any medical assistance, and can manage their own miscarriage at home. However, if you experience heavy bleeding (eg: you will more than 2 maxi pads in an hour for two hours in a row), if you have severe pain that does not respond to simple analgesics like Ibuprofen, or you develop a fever or other signs of infection, you will need to seek medical help promptly. If it is an emergency you can go to hospital and tell staff that you are having a miscarriage. Keep in mind that if you tell them you have caused the miscarriage by taking abortion pills, you may be reported to the police. There is no way for staff to know whether the miscarriage is natural or caused by pills, unless you tell them.




What is a surgical abortion and how is it performed?


A medical abortion, as explained above, involves taking medications that cause a miscarriage, and the body then expels the pregnancy just like it does when a natural miscarriage happens. A surgical abortion, on the other hand, involves using instruments to physically remove the pregnancy from the uterus. It is performed in an abortion clinic. Despite its name, surgical abortion does not involve cutting skin or stitches - the pregnancy is removed through the vagina. For pregnancies under 14 weeks, the method of removal is aspiration using a small tube. Beyond 14 weeks, the cervix is dilated and the pregnancy is removed with forceps and suction.





Voice for Choice is a coalition of civil society organisations (NGOs) that work together for reproductive rights and justice in Malta.

Email: info@v4c.mt