Photo by Louis Galvez on Unsplash

Malta’s Jane's — the underground abortion stories no one talks about

Aimee Fenech


Some years ago I got a phone call from a friend on a summer evening, she wanted to come over and talk to me and wouldn’t tell me what the matter was. I was worried and agreed to meet her straight away.

We stood outside the house because the conversation was private and she didn’t want my parents to hear. Her sister was pregnant and desperate, the contraception had failed and being a first year university student it was as if her world was coming to an end before it had even started.

In Malta abortions are not legal, my friends sister had tried running it off and was now considering throwing herself off the stairs in a desperate attempt to miscarry. I looked into my friends terrified face and agreed I would make some calls to figure out whether we can get the necessary abortion pills organised. I agreed to commit a crime because I believed and still believe that women do not have to have a forced pregnancy, because this woman deserved a chance at making her own choice.

A day later however despite my offer to help she’d decided that waiting would only make it worse and so she drank herself senseless and indeed threw herself down the stairs hard enough to trigger the miscarriage. She could have broken her neck instead she had her stomach pumped and a few bruises, at the hospital they told her that she’d had a miscarriage and asked whether she had known that she was pregnant, she answered no. She cried with relief when it was all over.

If she had answered yes she would have been liable to years in prison.

This story is not unusual or unique.

Another friend of a friend found herself with an unwanted pregnancy from an abusive ex partner, the prospect of giving birth to a child forever tying her fate to this man terrified her. We collected money for her trip to Sicily to have a safe abortion.

Every story one of utter misery for women and of hushed cries and whispered stories. All because the Maltese legislators refuse to accept and acknowledge that abortions are happening regardless and what they are really standing in the way of is access to a safe and accessible health care for all.

In the meantime we are guilty of aiding and abetting a crime punishable by jail time.

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Aimee Fenech

#permaculture practitioner, teacher and designer, co-founder of #ecohackerfarm, writer, project manager and activist get in touch