Reproductive Rights

What are reproductive rights?

Reproductive rights are a category of human rights that recognise the basic right of all people to decide freely and autonomously the number, timing, and spacing of their children, to have access to information on reproductive control, and to have access to the services that allow them to exercise their reproductive rights.

Reproductive rights mean that people are entitled to:

  • Accurate information on reproductive health, contraception, and healthcare services to control their reproduction.

  • Access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion, and fertility treatments.

  • Be able to choose if, when, and who to form relationships with and marry.

Why are reproductive rights important?

Without adequate reproductive rights and service, people and especially women are at risk of losing control over their bodies, their lives, and their futures. Forcing people into marriage against their will, forcing them to become sterilised, forcing them into harmful stereotypes that are outside their natural sexual orientations and gender identities, denying them information on sexual and reproductive health, and denying them access to contraception and abortion, are all common violations of reproductive rights across the world. No matter who you are and where you are, you should have the right to determine what happens to your own body, and you should have the right to control your reproduction.

Whenever reproductive rights are violated, control is taken from the individual, usually a woman, and placed in the hands of governments, husbands or male partners, or religious groups. These violations are often justified on the basis of culture, tradition, or religion.

What is the situation on reproductive rights in Malta?

In recent years, Malta has made significant progress in reproductive rights, but a number of barriers remain. Here are some key milestones achieved in the last decade:

  • Divorce became legal through a public referendum in 2011.

  • The Gender Identity, Gender Expression And Sex Characteristics Act was enacted in 2015.

  • Emergency contraception (the morning after pills) became available in Malta in 2016.

  • Marriage equality was enacted in 2017.

  • IVF laws and services were expanded in 2018.

Despite these advances there are still a number of severe shortcomings in Maltese laws and policies that violate the reproductive rights of people in Malta. These include:

  • The absolute prohibition on abortion, even in cases of fetal anomaly, rape, incest, or in cases where the pregnant person's life is at risk.

  • The criminalisation of abortion for women who perform an abortion on themselves.

  • Poor antenatal diagnosis services due to the absolute prohibition on abortion.

  • Lack of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis due to IVF law not allowing discarding of embryos.

  • Lack of prompt availability of emergency contraception due to conscientious objection by some pharmacists.

  • Lack of government subsidies on regular contraception.

What do we want to achieve?

We want people in Malta to receive the highest standard of reproductive healthcare services. To achieve this, we need:

  • Changes to the Criminal Code of Malta to decriminalise abortion, and to have abortion regulated as a matter of health policy.

  • Changes to IVF law (currently named the Embryo Protection Act) to allow the latest pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and embryo selection technologies to be used, to increase the rate of IVF success and make reproduction safer for couples with genetic disorders.

  • Changes to the sexual health policy to remove barriers to contraception, including emergency contraception.

  • A clear government commitment to increase contraceptive use in Malta, and reduce the rate of teen births.

  • Clear policies on conscientious objection to ensure timely access to services and healthcare is not compromised.

  • Clear and binding curricula to be followed in all schools in Malta and Gozo on evidence-based sexuality education.

  • More engagement by the government of past, current, and potential future service users of reproductive services, and an end to the culture of expecting people to travel abroad for controversial treatments.

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