Decriminalisation of Abortion is necessary for Gender Equality

Decriminalisation of Abortion is necessary for Gender Equality

08 Mar 2021
International Women's Day

The debate around abortion has been hot for quite some time. Debates have been had, organizations have been made, and empty promises scrutinized for what they are. In Malta’s case, we have had no party that is even willing to campaign for the implementation of new laws, possibly because of our strong catholic background and its effects on our laws. However this doesn’t mean if one is catholic, then one must also be anti-choice, as has been proven by the existence of Catholics for Choice organisation which has been around since the 70s. 

Abortions have taken place for generations. We also know that just because abortion has been illegal, it has not stopped women from getting them. Women, in all situations, have risked their lives to be able to take back ownership of their bodies, and their independence. If they are not able to, they will be forced to perform one on themselves, unnecessarily putting their lives and physical well-being at risk, as well as risking a jail sentence if they are reported to local authorities. 

Abortion needs to be seen for what it is – not as a crime, but as an essential medical procedure that can positively affect a woman’s physical and psychological health. We need to realize that the more people speak against allowing women to have a choice on abortion, they are disregarding women’s rights to have autonomy over their health and well-being. 

Science and shared personal experiences have shown us that we must approach abortion like we do many other personal experiences – we must approach them as a private, personal choice that was made for a person’s overall well-being. By leaving women with only two options – abortion overseas or pills discreetly sent to a person’s doorstep – we are asking them to risk themselves and their lives for something that should not be taboo in the first place. 

We should be helping women come to their own choice without worrying about creating more struggle down the road. According to the ‘Women’s Rights Foundation’, “on a yearly basis around 200 women purchase abortion pills online, whilst around 370 travel for an abortion”. Those who cannot afford either of these two options are discriminated against and forced to bring their pregnancy to term or may attempt to carry out backstreet abortions, which can have negative physical and psychological effects, as well as risk complications, or even death.

Ensuring the right to a choice can also positively affect the way women see motherhood. Some see pregnancy as a miracle, and some view it as an opportunity; but note that not everyone sees it that way, nor should they be forced to. In cases where the women may have gotten pregnant due to unplanned, unfortunate, or even traumatic circumstances, continuing the pregnancy may have a severe impact on the pregnant woman, physically and psychologically. This is especially the case with domestic abuse victims.  We cannot let our own personal choices and beliefs surrounding this option stop the women who need it from getting what they deserve – a choice. 

The stigma surrounding abortion does not help anyone. It divides us. Hate speech and online harassment leaves many afraid for their safety and helps feed the stigma against carrying out abortions. How can we all have a civilized discussion when the risks to any one, especially those who have gone for this option secretly, are significant to their freedoms and lives? They have no choice but to opt for speaking up anonymously, or not say anything at all. No one wishing to speak about abortion, or their own experience, should fear for their lives.  

Pro-choice is not pro-abortion. Pro-choice is fuelled by the desire to promote equality and ensure women’s complete autonomy, and empowerment over their bodies. 

It is no secret that women fall victim to unnecessary scrutinization and judgement, especially within our culture. Domestic violence and assault are evident problems that need to be tackled and are part of the problem stemming from the lack of equality and autonomy, that is not discussed enough nor acted on sufficiently. Abortion falls under this umbrella too, and is part of the progression towards complete female autonomy and gender equality. 

Pregnancy is not the only point of sex, and we must have that choice. Women should not be forced to carry their rapist’s or abuser’s child. Women should not be forced into motherhood. Women should not be forced to continue a pregnancy that is not healthy, or even risk death due to complications, simply because there are no other legal alternatives. Women who choose to use pills ordered online should not be prosecuted for wanting to carry out this procedure in the comfort of their own home. If a woman is in hospital and traces of these pills are found in their system, they should not be judged or criminalized, but empathized with and helped. And lastly, women should not be forced to hand in their passports, and have their rights taken away because they may seek those alternatives in other countries. 

In conclusion, the decriminalisation of abortion is the next step that we need to take. We stress the importance of this and aim to help Malta achieve this, guaranteeing women the right to make choices without the added complications of outdated laws and regressive stigma. It is a crucial step for our goal to achieve gender equality. Your choice may not be someone else’s, and that is okay. But we want safety and good health for all.