The European Parliament has voted, with 395 votes in favour and 171 against, to call on EU member states to ensure their citizens have continued access to reproductive services, including abortion, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The text, adopted on 17 March 2020, deals with the EU coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has a whole section on "protecting democracy, rule of law, and fundamental rights." It states:
"[The European Parliament] calls on the Member States to effectively guarantee safe and timely access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and the necessary healthcare services for all women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially access to contraception, including emergency contraception, and to abortion care; strongly rejects any attempts to backtrack on SRHR and LGBTI rights."
Prior to the travel restrictions imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus, women in Malta seeking an abortion could travel abroad and have their pregnancy terminated in jurisdictions where abortion is legal. Unfortunately, with commercial flights unavailable and the airport closed to almost all passengers, women are no longer able to travel abroad for this purpose.
During the pandemic the Maltese government has made no attempt to reform the inhumane total ban on abortion, which prohibits termination of pregnancy in any circumstance including in cases of rape and incest. As a result, the abortion ban has become more effective and women with unwanted pregnancies are suffering more than ever before.
The charity Abortion Support Network has recorded a spike in requests for assistance from women in Malta seeking abortion, but due to the travel ban their options are limited. A similar spike in cases was reported to us by doctors who practice in Malta. There are also concerns about the effects the pandemic could have on the availability of abortion pills worldwide.
We reiterate our call for liberalisation of Malta's abortion laws, especially now that travel is restricted and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. The European Parliament's call must be heeded, and the Maltese government must make available the abortion services that women can no longer access abroad. To not do so is an infringement on the human rights of all women in our country.