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Our wish for Women's Day 2021: That there will be a time when we're no longer needed

Why does FPAS exist? The Family Planning Advisory Service exists because the state of Malta is failing in its duty to provide women in Malta with adequate sexual education and access to the full range of reproductive health services, including abortion. FPAS exists because without it, women in Malta would struggle to find reliable information on things like emergency contraception and abortion.

As reputable health authorities have been saying ad nauseam, making abortion illegal does not stop abortion from happening, but it only drives it underground and makes it less safe. Women in countries like Malta, where abortion remains completely illegal, face the risk of getting taken advantage of by unqualified abortion providers, and to this day we still hear of women who pay thousands of Euro to have an abortion in a nearby country and receive a very poor service.

The government continues to wash its hands of all responsibility for these women - as though abortion is not a reality and women with unwanted pregnancy do not exist in Malta. Not only does the government not provide any abortion services, but we have recently seen government ministers try to make themselves feel better and score some political points by giving a grant to LifeNetwork to provide "pregnancy crisis" services to women in Malta. LifeNetwork is associated with the likes of the far-right Agenda Europe and Heartbeat International, and in no way can be relied upon to give factual information on the option of abortion to women with unwanted pregnancies.

It is this dire lack of reproductive health services and the abundance of misinformation on reproductive choices that make FPAS a necessitity. We're not going to lie, we long for the day when we are no longer needed. We long for the day when women in Malta will not have to contact our volunteers for information on abortion, but will be able to get this from the hospital or health centre. We long for the day when women in Malta will be able to be provided with abortion pills in Malta, rather than have to order them illegally from abroad. We long for the day women in Malta can have a surgical abortion locally, rather than have to travel abroad. We long for the day women in Malta can discuss abortion or post-abortion care with their regular doctor, rather than contact us at FPAS because they feel they cannot trust their doctor. We long for the day when women's healthcare is practiced according to internationally accepted standards.

Until that day comes, FPAS will continue to be there for women in Malta.

In the first six months of our operations we have heard from 203 people in Malta who asked us all kinds of questions about reproductive healthcare. It does sometimes get a bit busy for our volunteers, but it is a rewarding experience for us all. The frequent thanks we get from people who contact us is all we need.

From all the volunteers at FPAS: We wish you all a happy Women's Day 2021!

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