Getting an Abortion in 2021: The Challenges and Possibilities
As we enter the second year of the pandemic, we look at how the landscape has changed for women in Malta seeking abortions, and which options are still available.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in early 2020, women in Malta have been facing more challenges and hurdles than ever before to obtain a safe abortion. Some borders were closed, other countries have implemented mandatory quarantine for travellers, and flying became more limited and expensive.
If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it is that we now have more evidence than ever before that a women can manage their own abortions with pills at home. As countries went into lockdown, national and international guidance on about medical abortion changed to give more flexibility to women and avoid unnecessary clinic visits. For example, in the UK the need to take Mifepristone in a clinic was waived, and both Mifepristone and Misoprostol are now supplied to women to take at home. This has proven to be a safe and efficient strategy, and the UK is now looking at making this arrangement permanent. The World Health Organisation has also updated its guidance in 2020 to state that women can use abortion pills at home up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
A self-managed abortion with pills at home has become the most commonly sought method of abortion in Malta, and from information made available by organisations that supply abortion pills to women in Malta it is estimated that one abortion pill pack is shipped to Malta every single day. Women on Web and Women Help Women remain the two most reputable organisations that supply abortion pills to women in Malta. They take care to medically screen requests for abortion pills to make sure it is safe to dispense, and their donation requests are in the region of EUR 75 to 100 - a reasonable amount that covers the cost of pills and express postage.
On the other hand, we have also seen a proliferation of dubious abortion pill providers in Malta some of whom have been charging women extortionate amounts of money for a single abortion pill combipack.
Travelling for an abortion has become more challenging, bureaucratic, and expensive, but not impossible. The most difficult time was between March and June 2020 when Malta's airport was closed to all but the most essential travel. Since June 2020 restrictions at Malta's airport have been eased, and replaced with rules based on the level of risk of each country.
Many European countries now require a SARS-CoV-2 antigen PCR test (not the rapid test) within a few days from arrival, while some require arrivals to quarantine for 10-14 days. In most cases (including when travelling to the UK), travellers from Malta can quarantine in their own accommodation, rather than in government quarantine facilities. You can find a recent list of travel restrictions and formalities for different European countries here.
Almost all abortion clinics in Europe have remained open during the pandemic, and in some countries, you may leave quarantine to attend your abortion appointment because it is classed as essential healthcare. You can find abortion clinics in Europe on abortion-clinics.eu.
When returning to Malta you will need to follow the rules described here. In summary, Malta now classifies countries according to risk into green, amber, and red categories. Most European countries are currently amber, which means you will have to take a SARS-CoV-2 antigen PCR test within 72 hours of arrival but there is no need to quarantine in Malta. The UK is on the red list, which means that if you get an abortion in the UK you will need to either spend 14 days in an Amber or Green country before re-entering Malta, or quarantine in Malta for 14 days after arrival.
If you need to travel for an abortion, Abortion Support Network can help you navigate the bureaucracy and find appropriate abortion clinics and flights. You can contact Abortion Support Network by calling 27780991. We can only hope that as the vaccine rollout picks up speed across Europe, restrictions will be eased and travelling for an abortion will become less cumbersome in the second half of 2021.