The Malta Independent 17 November 2018, Saturday

TMID Editorial - Reproductive rights: Good proposals were completely ignored

Thursday, 15 March 2018, 09:31 Last update: about 9 months ago

The bitter abortion war that is being waged on the comments boards intensified last Saturday when a women’s rights group held a press conference in Valletta and called for access to safe, legal abortion through the national health service. The Women’s Rights Foundation (WRF) says abortion should be made available at least in cases where it would save a woman’s life, to preserve a woman’s physical and mental health, in cases of rape and incest and in cases of fatal foetus impairment.

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As expected, the reaction was immediate and hysteric, with the result that other proposals put forward by the group were completely ignored.

This was rather unfortunate because some of these proposals make a lot of sense and have nothing to do with abortion, which the country is clearly not willing to usher in anyway. One of the recommendations was the revision of the National Sexual Health Strategy to reflect legal and societal changes occurring since 2011.

The group also called for the introduction of family, school and community-based sexuality education and awareness raising programmes and strategies that place gender equality and human rights at the centre and use methods that foster participation and critical thinking.

“The information provided should be accurate, evidence-based and tackles and dispels myths and misconceptions,” the group said.

It also called for the enabling of access to sexual and reproductive health services through community-based clinics that provide services that are gender and age appropriate and that further conduct outreach for marginalized groups.

WRF also called for the elimination of practical, financial and legal restrictions on the provision of contraceptive, especially for young people and persons on low income.

“Subsidising contraception should be considered as a public health investment and should be extended for all brands and methods of modern contraception,” it said, while also calling for the removal of requirements for third party authorisation that impede access to contraception for people under the age of 16.

The fifth proposal is to guarantee the practical availability of a wide range of contraceptives which are currently only available from certain pharmacies on a named patient basis.

These recommendations were either left out of some media reports or, where published, were completely ignored by those who were unable to read past the bit about abortion.

This newspaper has written on several occasions about the need to focus our efforts on educating our youths and providing them with access to contraception, thus preventing unwanted pregnancies and working on reducing the demand for abortion.

The vast majority of Maltese do not agree with abortion and both parties said they have no mandate or will move in that area, so all this arguing is mostly pointless. Instead, we should tackle the root of the problem. That is surely something that there can be agreement on.

Speaking with The Malta Independent, Equality Minister Helena Dalli has expressed her personal support for the introduction of free contraception, or at the least free contraception to low-income people through means testing. Dalli stressed that this was a personal belief, and that such an issue would have to be discussed in tandem with the Health and Finance Ministries.

From what we’re hearing it seems that there is the will to move in that direction, which is a positive first step.

 

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