A year ago, I had an abortion. I’ve written about it, spoken about it, and been attacked for it. Because Malta, the country I live in, has a full ban on abortions, meaning it is illegal in any case - even when it will cost the mother her life.
That’s a problem, because access to safe abortion services is a human right. Europe is steadily moving forward as abortion is permitted in most countries, with Ireland legalising it in 2018 and San Marino doing so earlier this year.
But it seems like pro-life activists are gaining ground in certain parts of the world, as on the other side of the ocean Texas stepped back decades in time by making it illegal.
Malta remains the European Union’s only member state with a blanket ban on abortion. And while there are campaigns out there, with women for choice and doctors for choice championing women’s rights, the large majority of the country is still against it.
Anti-abortion material like the 1984-film The Silent Scream is still shown in schools today, despite claims made in the film having been debunked in the late 90s. And while I’d like to think it’s just the older generation that believes abortion equals murder, there’s a shocking amount of younger people that believe it is morally wrong.
People are entitled to their beliefs, and I am not here to change their minds about at what point life starts. But that doesn't mean their opinion should count as a benchmark for everyone, and that it should limit women's safety, health, and freedom.
"People are entitled to say they are against abortion and disagree with it. But they shouldn't force other people to follow their rules. Just because you are against abortion doesn't mean you should deny someone from the choice of having one."
So when I was invited to speak about my personal experience on Topik, a Maltese TV show discussing current topics of national interest, I figured I’d go for it. After a relaxed Zoom call with the director, who gave me the impression she was very accepting of it all, I was confident that this would be a casual conversation.
After being plastered in a face full of makeup when I had clearly said I'd prefer going with a more natural look, I made my way to the brightly-lit studio, sitting several metres away from show host Quinton Scerri.
I didn’t expect (but could have seen it coming) that the 10-minute talk would be Quinton firing critical questions at me while clearly being on the other side of the debate.
“What would you have done if the father would have wanted to keep it?” he asked after I had explained that neither I nor the guy involved wanted to keep the child. As if that’s a relevant question in a situation that simply was the way it was, and where a decision was made unanimously.
He also asked whether five days isn’t a little short for making such a huge decision, referring to the Netherlands’ five-day compulsory consideration period before having an abortion.
Well, I explained, five days is a long time for being pregnant if you don’t want to be. Besides, isn't it a great thing that even a progressive country like the Netherlands considers abortion something that needs a consideration period?
And, he asked the 22-year-old girl who just came here to talk about her own abortion, up until when should abortions be allowed?
I hate to break it to you, but I’m neither a gynaecologist nor a policy-maker, so besides not being qualified to answer this question I also think it heavily depends on the situation.
Long story short, the interview was tougher than I had imagined, and in hindsight, I wish I would have gone into it more prepared.
But I think I managed to get my story (and point) across, and even if not, I hope I can be someone women can look to when they face this difficult decision themselves.
If you're curious, you can have a look at the interview here. Mind you - the questions are in Maltese, but I think my answers provide enough context to get the gist of it.