VALLETTA, Malta (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Women's Rights Foundation is pushing the Catholic country of Malta to decriminalize the "morning after" pill.
The abortion debate is raging on the tiny island country of Malta off the coast of Sicily, where the procedure is illegal and considered a crime. Hormone pills preventing the implantation of the zygote or embryo into the uterine lining are also illegal because the government defines pregnancy as occurring at conception. However, other devices preventing the implantation of the fertilized ovum, like IUDs, Mirena and injections are legal and widely available.
Activist groups like the Women's Rights Foundation (WRF) disagree with the government's contradictory legislation and want emergency hormonal contraception legalized. On June 16 they filed a judicial protest against the Maltese government bearing 102 signatures by women aged 16–62 demanding the decriminalization of so-called emergency contraception, arguing that it is not an abortifacient.
The protest declares, "Women's Rights Foundation calls on the government to change its position with regard to emergency contraceptives and licenses without further delay. Every day that goes by will continue to discriminate and breach the rights of women."
In an interview with Times of Malta, WRF member Andreana Dibben argues that emergency contraception is not an abortifacient because pregnancy occurs only when a fertilized ovum implants in the uterus.
"To be an abortifacient, there has to be a pregnancy. Now, if there is a pregnancy — and all international scientific communities define pregnancy as there having been an implantation — the emergency contraceptive won't work."
After the judicial protest was filed, other groups have become vocal for the legalization of hormonal emergency contraception. The political party, Alternattiva Demokratika, has been the first to make a statement on the subject.
"AD is adamantly against the negative portrayal of contraceptive issues and female sexual health. The negative images attributed to sexually active women might hinder young women from seeking support."
Labor Party member and Malta's one-time health minister Godfrey Farrugia disagrees that emergency contraception has nothing to do with human rights. "Freedom of thought, opinion, liberty and to assemble are human rights, but ... liberty is the power that we bestow on ourselves and interfering with the very origins of life do not fulfill those rights."
The Catholic bishops of Malta released a statement confirming they are against a move to legalize so-called emergency contraception.
We therefore affirm that the legalization of this pill, which is abortive in many cases, should not be tied to the argument of women's rights or with reproductive health. The issue remains one concerning the moral fiber of society, without which we will not only be erasing all that we've achieved but we will have nothing to relay to those who come after us.