New play in Malta talks openly about abortion debate

Malta has the strictest ban on abortion in the EU, with prison terms for women who are found to have undergone the procedure and doctors who helped them. But now a new production is targeting the taboo topic.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
New play in Malta talks openly about abortion debate - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Women who become pregnant by their rapist or close family member, as well as those who carry fetuses diagnosed with severe impairment, are legally obliged to carry their pregnancy to term. When the Women's Rights Foundation published a position paper suggesting that abortion should be available to women affected by these previously mentioned cases, the activists were vilified and received threats. Newspapers questioned whether the Malta Community Chest Fund under the president, which supported the NGO's research on sexual harassment, would ever fund such a thing again.

The debate, however, showed that abortion is moving from a taboo topic to a heavily contested one in Malta.

It is in this climate that the digital editor of the staunchly anti-abortion newspaper, the Times of Malta, decided to write a play based on real stories from people in both camps. Carefully tiptoeing around the question of whether Malta's legislation should change, Grech makes it a point that his script does not take sides.

Grech believes, people who condemn abortion in all circumstances might for the first time listen to stories of women who have been through the procedure and were too afraid to talk about it.

The artistic medium allows both humanizing the stories from both sides and offering the protagonists enough distance and privacy, as their lives are portrayed by some of Malta's top actors.

This year Lovin Malta, an easy-going news site on lifestyle and politics, ran an anonymous survey on respondents' abortion experiences. Out of the 37 people who resported having done it themselves or seen their partners do it, most had their abortions in the UK, and none of the women regretted the decision. The website also published a first-person account of a woman who had her pregnancy terminated in the UK. Some Maltese women also shared their stories with Euronews two years ago. After the Irish referendum and Polish protests pushing back attempts to further limit access to abortion, Malta is in the spotlight as its society's attitudes towards the abortion ban show no signs of wavering.

Details from the story:

  • Herman Grech (the Times of Malta’s digital editor) wrote and directed a new theater play, De-terminated, opening on October 19.
  • The play is based on research and interviews with people who went through the abortion experience, as well as with activists from both the pro-life and pro-choice lobbies.
  • The stories, presented without fictional embellishment in a documentary format, range from a girl who explains why she chose to have an abortion after she was raped, to the man who forced his partner to terminate her pregnancy and then became an anti-abortion advocate.
  • Klaus Vella Bardon from the anti-abortion Life Network Foundation commented that calls for debate are a Trojan horse.
  • "I cannot ignore the fact that there are women having abortions. If nobody were having an abortion, I wouldn’t have written this play," the playwright told his colleague at the Times of Malta.
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