We note with concern Parliamentary Secretary Deo Debattista’s call on the government to set up “pro-life clinics” to offer support to pregnant women “while discouraging them from seeking abortion abroad,” as reported by the Times of Malta on 6 May 2020.
Whilst we believe that support for women going through a crisis in pregnancy should be available and accessible, such support services must never attempt to control women or actively discourage them from having abortions. Women in Malta have a right to seek abortion services where this is legal, and this is enshrined in case law from the European Court of Human Rights. It is not the role of support services, or the state, to encourage or discourage women from terminating a pregnancy. Such an important decision can only be made by the pregnant woman after being given impartial information and any support she requests.
Women are perfectly capable of making decisions about their own future, and whether they wish to give birth. Just as no woman should ever be forced to have an abortion, likewise no woman should be stopped from having one. It is also worth noting that sexual education and contraception, including the morning after pill, are also effective at reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies but these seem to have been conspicuously absent from Dr Debattista’s speech.
It is concerning that unpinning this desire to “discourage the practice” of abortion is the wish “to reverse the declining birth rate.” Such an attitude strips women of individuality and autonomy, and views them as nothing more than tools for procreation. The wellbeing and health of women in our country cannot be sacrificed for what politicians may wrongly see as the “greater good,” and a woman's worth is not determined by her reproductive choices. Women in our country deserve more respect than that.