‘Just because we are not talking about abortion doesn’t mean it is not happening, so it is definitely our responsibility to keep the momentum going’.
These words uttered by Dr Andrea Dibben from Women’s Rights Foundation during an interview with her, highlight the importance for us, as citizens, to take a stand, mobilise and protest in the hope of changing the blanket ban on abortion and allowing Maltese women safe and decent access to voluntary termination of pregnancy.
We also had the chance to speak to Dr Isabel Stabile from Doctors for Choice who also emphasised the importance for citizens to keep the issue on the agenda, and is optimistic about the growing movement in favour of reproductive rights.
Asked whether she sees change on the horizon regarding the issue, she replied :
‘Absolutely yes. The surveys that have been done by leading media houses are really showing the trend towards the decriminilisation of abortion among 16-35 year olds….’
‘We’re going in the right direction and we’re going to get there, certainly in my lifetime.’
Currently Malta remains the only EU country to have an outright ban on abortion with no exceptions made if women’s health or life are in danger. However, in the last few years the authorities have been feeling the pressure to change these conservative laws and on 30 June, Health Minister Chris Fearne ordered a review of legislation on abortion.
So in this relentless political environment one has to ask how can the general public take a stand against the current laws and push for change?
Firstly, it is clear that one of the factors slowing down the mobilisation for the right to abortion is the lack of knowledge and misinformation that has been circulating for a while in Maltese society.
For this reason, Dr Dibben recommends that Maltese people educate themselves on the subject, select the right sources and get the right information out there. For example, they can go to the website Break The Taboo Malta and read testimonies of women who have had an abortion to get some perspective on the issue.
Dr Stabile also emphasizes the importance ‘to read about it, talk about it, and share the information online and you will find that most people that you speak to will agree.’
Dr Dibben advocates for the Maltese ‘to have the courage’ to be open about their pro-choice position, even if the current environment makes this difficult.
If they can’t do this they can always contribute to campaigns, which take money and time to organise, by supporting them financially or participating in them in some other way, Dibben explains.
Finally, Dr Stabile encourages us to engage with cultural events that deal with this issue. She takes as an example of the current play ‘Blanket Ban’ by Davinia Hamilton and Marta Vella being shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Attending such an event, discussing it with friends, on social media, is another way for people to ensure the topic is kept on the agenda, she explained.
Any cultural involvement in this issue reflect the level of mobilisation against the criminalisation of abortion, which is the most efficient way to make these recommendations heard by the government.