Frequently-asked Questions

Here's a collection of some of the most commonly asked questions (and answers).

Your Rights

Taking an oath: Do I have to swear on the Bible?

No.

If you're called to testify or otherwise appear in court, you will be asked to take an oath. Standard procedure is that you will be asked to affirm the oath recited by the magistrate, then kiss the crucifix. This is not a requirement. If you tell the magistrate or official that you are not religious you will be instead asked to "solemnly declare" (tiddikjara solennement). In all but the words and ritual, this is identical to a religious oath.

This applies in any and every situation in which a person can be required to take an oath, including taking an oath of office etc.

Do employees of a school have a right to lead prayers in schools in Malta?

I don't think this issue has been tackled officially yet, but considering that the constitution declares Malta's religion to be the Catholic one, and that religion is part of "mandatory education", I think they can make the case for teacher-led prayer easily. On the other hand, no student may be forced to participate due to freedom of religion.

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General

Atheism, Agnosticism, Humanism: what’s the difference?

I must start by pointing out that there are disagreements, even among atheists, agnostics and humanists, about exactly where one ends and the other begins. Here is a summary.

An atheist is someone who does not believe in gods - no more, no less. Thus, an atheist could still believe in astrology for instance - even though most atheists also reject other forms of "the supernatural". An atheist may or may not explicitly reject or deny the existence of gods. Most atheists who identify themselves as such reject the existence of gods.

An agnostic is one who feels that the existence of gods is something unknowable, and thus is uncertain about whether gods exist. It is possible to believe, or reject the existence of a god despite this uncertainty - so it is possible to be agnostic and atheist, or agnostic and theist. Many agnostics have a specific deity that they are uncertain about - they may be uncertain about the Christian god and reject the Hindu gods, or they may have a different concept of god altogether.

Finally, I would define humanism as: atheism combined rejection of other supernatural things like afterlife, demons, astrology etc, coupled with a code of morality that is based on reason rather than dogma.

Are there any Secular Charities I can support?

Some non-religious are wary of supporting religion-based charities due to concerns about the use of their donation to convert those in need or to build churches rather than schools. Fortunately there are a number of secular charities. Many of these charities allow the donor to explicitly donate funds for a specific project or else to give the charity the freedom to allocate the funds where they are needed most.

This list is by no means comprehensive, nor in any order of preference. All operate on an international level, and all are secular in nature.

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Ethics Education

Where can I find the Ethics curriculum?

NOTE: This page contains external links that could change from time to time.

The Education Department publishes the curriculum for all subjects:

 

What is taught in Ethics?

The following interview with Professor Kenneth Wain was published by The Malta Independent on Sunday, 5 June 2016.


Teaching Ethics in our schools

The introduction of an Ethics curriculum programme in our schools is explained in the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) document of 2012 as providing an alternative programme for students whose parents decide, for whatever reason, to withdraw their children from Catholic Religious Education (CRE). The latest statistic I have of children who do not attend CRE, which dates back to 2013 and is evidently outdated now, is of 1,411 Maltese and foreign students. The authors of the NCF obviously felt that these children should enjoy some substitute for missing out on the religion lesson but stated, without explanation, that Ethics was “preferred over a Comparative Religious Education programme”, which was another realistic option available to them. However, while they represented Ethics as an alternative to CRE, they continued to feature it in the same curricular area with CRE, and the same was the case with the recently concluded project to translate the NCF into a Learning Outcomes Framework (LOF).

In 2014, before the LOF project started, members of our Department of Education Studies at the University of Malta, myself included, were asked by the Minister of Education to work on an Ethics programme and train teachers to teach it. Our research found that nearly invariably in national programmes, Ethics was indeed taught in non-confessional comparative Religion programmes unlike our CRE. They featured faiths and belief-systems significantly present in their multi-cultural, multi-faith, societies and usually included secular outlooks on life, even the atheist, besides the religious. Hence we had to create our own Ethics programme which could not be confessional or the teaching of a particular religious moral doctrine; nor could it be comparative or about religions since the NCF had specifically ruled it out, so this was no easy task.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misrepresentation about this programme, mainly by those who have neither read nor engaged with it. Hence I shall try to describe its main features as succinctly as I can while doing as much justice to it as I can. The main purpose in primary schooling, to begin with, is to socialize pupils from diverse belief and ethical cultures into the evolving multi-cultural and pluralistic reality which is Maltese society today to foster mutual-understanding and tolerance. It assumes that there are key ethical values that are shared and ‘uncontroversial’ which are cross-cultural and should unite people. Values like respect for truth, honesty, fairness, compassion, understanding, loyalty, courage, generosity, and so on. Students in the programme learn that in a multi-cultural society these values are understood and practised differently. Understanding this and the different moral cultures and traditions that feature in our society (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and secular humanism) is the first step towards bringing them together in their diversity, and eventually to see themselves as members of the same moral community despite their differences. This requires cultivating their moral imagination to get them to see others who are different, even significantly different, from them, even strangers, as one of us, as members of the same society and equally human, and therefore as worthy of moral consideration and respect. Respect is taught not just towards other human beings but also towards animal life and the environment they live in, natural and constructed. The students will learn to value friendship, sharing with others, fairness, justice, helping others, compassion, honesty, loyalty, solidarity, tolerance, rights, responsibilities, and so on. A strong case for friendship with others in the classroom community and the school, for sharing with others, and for solidarity is made from the beginning, for recognizing the right of everyone to play and participate in order to target bullying, to the extent that the class is encouraged to discuss and make a commitment against it.

The whole Ethics programme is taught through the numerous resources offered by philosophy, and it draws on considerable work done over the last decades in philosophy programmes with children in classroom settings. Central to these programmes is the representation of the classroom community as a ‘community of inquiry’, which is the responsibility of the ethics teacher to set up from the first years. A community of inquiry is one that values discussion, dialogue, debate, the exchange of ideas and outlooks in a social environment which is free and safe and where participants feel that they and their views are respected; it is therefore a community of friends. The community is a place where understanding is built and consensus valued, but also a place of non-violent struggle where arguments are won, if at all, by persuasion. Participants in the community learn value rules and an authority to interpret and enforce them, the teacher in this case. Participation cultivates their intellectual virtues like honesty, respect for truth, loyalty in debate and to the argument, fairness, tolerance, trust, moderation, courage, consideration of other views and ideas, and so on, and their intellectual and communicative skills like putting ideas, views, information, across economically (to allow space for others), reasoning, listening, weighing, exploring, arguing, evaluating, analysing, negotiating, and so on. These virtues and skills are obviously also democratic besides being ethical (the separation of ethics from politics is fine), so that the community of inquiry is also a democratic community (hence the Ethics programme is also an education for democratic citizenship). Finally, besides being a community of friends and a democracy the community of inquiry is itself ethical; its ethical values as practised in its way of life.

The secondary school programme (especially in Forms 1 and 2) consolidates and builds on this primary programme; the level of inquiry is more sophisticated due to the further development of the students’ intellectual and communicative skills. The manner of teaching through discussion etc continues right through, but a new emphasis is made on the importance of self-reflection besides communication; reflecting on oneself and one’s own life personally and in its relation to others. The value of self-respect and respect for others becomes more pronounced and achieves a wider meaning between Forms 3-5. Students are encouraged to reflect in a critical way on their own ethical beliefs and conduct both towards themselves in their private life and towards others. In both cases they are sensitized to the ethical importance of the side-effects, the consequences, of what they do for themselves and for others. On the other hand a more critical outlook colours their participation in classroom discussions which are extended more outside the classroom to subjects and issues of a more general nature and encountered in the wider society including the media in its diverse forms where views, opinions, arguments of an ethical nature are encountered. The use of the social media itself is raised as an ethical issue. Students are encouraged to reflect critically on these views issues and so on, and taught to evaluate their validity, reasonableness, fairness, adherence to truth with the assistance of some elementary logic. They learn to regard the disagreement in ethical matters as endemic to a society that values freedom of belief and that tolerates cultural (religious, ethnic and other) and therefore itself to be understood, tolerated and debated (this is after all what they have learnt by belonging to a community of inquiry).

To expand a bit on these generalised objectives of the secondary programme. In Form 3, the general theme is ‘Respect for Self and Others’. Students are encouraged to value self-reflection, living an ‘examined life’ in Socratic language; with it they learn self-responsibility and ultimately self-mastery; the ability to be in control of their lives and to make responsible life-choices for themselves as they relate with others. They learn to distinguish good from bad role models, to promote a healthy regard for themselves, for their minds and bodies, and to distinguish self-reflection, which is healthy, from an unhealthy kind of self-absorption which is obsessive, narcissistic, and may lead to practices that are harmful to oneself and others; namely various kinds of addictions, and self-inflicted harm (which includes irresponsible risk-taking, self-exposure, and sexual activity). The whole Ethics programme’s thrust against bullying is more specifically addressed to the practice of cyber-bullying, and students are sensitized to the debates on cyber ethics. This focus on the meaning of ethical responsibility and the issues it raises is shifted to the ‘Ethics of Care’ as the general theme of the Form 4 programme. Self-care is represented as a fundamental personal responsibility and including care for others, particularly for the more vulnerable. Care for others is represented as an indispensable part of caring for oneself. One of its subsidiary module (there are three to each theme), ‘The Ethics of Dependence’ represents dependence as a feature of our humanity. It explores, from the perspective of the ethics of care, our dependence on others in childhood; then we pass into adulthood where others are dependent on us, then finally to old age where we may again become dependent on others. What is explored here is basically the ethics of mutuality and reciprocity, of giving and receiving, of care and generosity towards those who are temporarily or permanently dependent on us through their immaturity or disability. The last module, in Form 5 (which is time-restricted because of the SEC exam at the end of it) move seamlessly into ‘Life and Death Issues’, which are particularly sensitive and controversial, but which they have already come across in their lives and possibly experienced, and which they are now mature enough to consider and discuss responsibly with their teachers.

I’m sure I’ve done nothing approaching full justice to what is a very rich and complex, but not over-ambitious, programme which is intended to address issues of diversity and social cohesion and to contribute towards an ethics of understanding and respectful co-existence in our pluralistic, multi-cultural society, the democratic resolution of difference, an ethics of environmental responsibility, an ethical treatment of everything living, human or animal, an ethics of zero tolerance for bullying in whatever form, an ethics of cyber responsibility, and so on. I would very strongly discourage: (1) putting it in the hands of teachers not attuned to it and not specifically trained to teach it, and (2) encouraging the idea that this is another subject students can hook onto late to boost their SEC certification. I would, on the other hand, encourage parents who may consider choosing it for their children to commit to it early for the obvious reason that it is developmental, a series of building-blocks.

Professor Wain's areas of specialisation in philosophy are chiefly education, ethics and political philosophy. He was also appointed Dean of the Faculty of Education at Malta’s university. Apart from playing a leading role in Malta’s national educational policy development, and in the setting of the national curriculum, he continued to contribute actively in the field as chairman of the Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools, and of the Foundation for Educational Services.

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Sexual & Reproductive Health

What are Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights?

Sexual Health

A state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.
Reference: WHO 

Reproductive Rights

These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes the right to make decisions concerning reproduction, free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights documents. Reference: UNFPA

Reproductive Health

Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition is the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice, as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility. Reference: UNFPA 

Sexual Rights

Sexual health cannot be achieved and maintained without respect for, and protection of, certain human rights. The application of existing human rights to sexuality and sexual health constitutes sexual rights.
Rights critical to the realization of sexual health include:

  • The right to privacy
  • The right to equality and non-discrimination
  • The right to information, as well as education
  • The right to the highest attainable standard of health (including sexual health) and social security
  • The right to marry and to found a family and enter into marriage with the free and full consent of the intending spouses, and to equality in and at the dissolution of marriage
  • The right to decide the number and spacing of one’s children
  • The rights to freedom of opinion and expression
  • The right to an effective remedy for violations of fundamental rights.

The responsible exercise of human rights requires that all persons respect the rights of others. Sexual rights protect all people’s rights to fulfil and express their sexuality and to enjoy sexual health, with due regard for the rights of others and within a framework of protection against discrimination. Reference: WHO

Contraceptives in Malta

Most contraceptives, except emergency contraceptives, are available in Malta.

Condoms are easily available from most pharmacies and supermarkets, and have the important added advantage of offering protection against sexually transmitted infections, apart from being effective contraceptives.

Some medical contraceptives may require a prescription. Consult the doctor or pharmacist before using a medical contraceptive for the first time.

Long-term contraceptives such as the copper IUD and coil are available. Consult your gynaecologist about this option.

Information about other methods is available on this website: http://sexualhealth.gov.mt/content/contraception/

Can a woman get emergency contraceptives (“morning-after pill”) in Malta?

Note: A judicial protest has been filed by the organisation Foundation for Women's Rights to make the emergency contraceptive available in Malta, so the situation described here could change rapidly.

Although there is no law explicitly declaring emergency contraceptives to be illegal, all medicines must be authorised by the Medicines Authority before they can be imported, and so far they have refused to authorise any emergency contraceptive pills. The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality has stated that the lack of access to the ECP is discriminatory against women.

Note: The term "morning after pill" is being phased out in favour of "emergency contraceptives" because modern ECs function up to 5 days after.

WARNING: Taking excess doses of regular medications is not recommended.

There are actually medicines legally available in Malta that have the same active ingredient as the emergency contraceptive pill. For instance, Esyma which is prescribed for uterine fibroids contains 5mg of ulipristal, the same active ingredient used in the emergency contraceptive EllaOne, though the latter contains 30mg.

More information about emergency contraception is available on a number of sites including this one from Princeton University.

Are the Morning-After Pill and the Abortion Pill the same?

No, they are very different products.

Emergency Contraception ("morning-after") Pill

The morning-after pill works by preventing an egg from being released by the ovaries. In short, it prevents fertilisation from taking place.

Contrary to claims made by certain groups, a study on the effects of the emergency contraceptive shows no indication that the emergency contraceptive can prevent implantation of an egg once it is fertilised.

Once a fertilised egg implants in the uterus wall, the morning-after pill is ineffective. This is why it is categorised as an emergency contraceptive. The most common emergency contraceptive pill is effective up to 5 days after having unprotected sex - so the term "morning after" is being phased out since it's rather misleading.

Here is a video giving a short description of emergency contraception and how it works.

Abortion Pill

The abortion pill is something else entirely. These are two pills - mifepristone and misoprostol - that are taken up to 70 days after a woman's last period. Unlike the emergency contraceptive which prevents pregnancy, the abortion pill terminates the pregnancy. This type of abortion is often called a "medical abortion" as opposed to surgical abortion, since it involves no surgery or similar interventions.

The abortion pill is illegal in Malta, while emergency contraceptive pills have not yet been authorised.

Can the Morning-After Pill cause an abortion or prevent egg implantation?

No.

Some groups expressed concerns that the emergency contraceptive pill could prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus, or even cause an abortion, however this was found not to be the case.

So why do some ECP labels say that it might?

On the 28th July 1999, the American medicines authority, the FDA, approved the packaging, labelling and information leaflet for "Plan B", an emergency contraceptive pill. Since, in 1999, nobody was sure about the mechanism of action of these pill, the FDA required that all conceivable possibilities be listed - including the possibility that the pill somehow prevented the fertilised egg from being implanted. In fact, the wording used was that the pill might act in these ways. The FDA's Medical Review even notes the fact that "the primary difficulty with the label is that this is the first product to be approved by the FDA that is a progestin-only for contraception", so they took warnings from several other contraceptives and medicines, preferring to be extra cautious and include more warnings than less.

Since then, many studies have been performed to determine the precise mechanisms, and the prevention of implantation was excluded. In fact, the US' National Library of Medicine website has already corrected the description of the emergency contraceptive pill to remove the misleading statements.

Other statements from recent scientific studies include:

"Recent evidence suggests that UPA modulates human sperm functions while it has no effect on established pregnancy. To date the majority of the evidence concurs in excluding a post-fertilization effect of UPA"
Mechanisms of action of oral emergency contraception, Gynecological Endocrinology, 30:10, 685-687 (2015)

"Neither LNG nor UPA impairs endometrial receptivity or embryo implantation. Correct knowledge on the mechanism of action of ECPs is important to avoid overestimating their effectiveness and to advise women on correct use."
Kristina Gemzell-Danielsson, Cecilia Berger & P. G. Lalitkumar (2014)Mechanisms of action of oral emergency contraception, Gynecological Endocrinology, 30:10, 685-687 (2014)

"Some studies have shown histologic or biochemical alterations in the endometrium after treatm ent with the regimen, leading to the conclusion that combined ECPs may act by impairing endometrial receptivity to subsequent implantation of a fertilized egg. However, other more recent studies have found no such effects on the endometrium."

"Inhibition or delay of ovulation is LNG ECPs principal and possibly only mechanism of action; Review of the evidence suggests that LNG ECPs cannot prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Language on implantation should not be included in LNG ECP product labeling"
Mechanism of action. How do levonorgestrel-only emergency contraceptive pills (LNG ECPs) prevent pregnancy?
International Federation of Gynecology & Obstetrics (2011)

Notes

The Copper IUD, which is legal in Malta, as well as the regular contraceptive pill, could prevent the implantation of the fertilised egg.

Note that under normal circumstances and without any human intervention, it is estimated that around half of all fertilised eggs fail to implant and are discarded by the body when the woman next has her period, and go unnoticed.

Gamete? Embryo? Fetus?

Discussions about pregnancy often involve biological terms that some might not be familiar with. Here's a summary of the most common ones.

The sperm and egg are called gametes. They are haploid cells - that is, cells with half the normal amount of DNA.

Once they join and the DNA merges (and thus becomes a diploid cell) it’s referred to as a zygote.This is the "fertilised egg".

When this cell starts dividing it is referred to as an embryo, right up to the 8th week, after which it is referred to as a fetus. A blastocyst is an embryo plus its placenta and umbilical cord, all of which come from the same fertilised egg.

The embryo will embed into the uterus walls typically around 7 - 10 days after fertilisation. This is considered to be the start of pregnancy.

 

When does science say that life begins?

The short version: It doesn’t.

Science can tell when fertilisation occurs, when implantation occurs, when there’s a beating heart, when a fetus becomes viable, when there’s a functioning higher brain, when the quickening occurs, and of course when birth occurs, but it does not state which of these milestones constitutes “the beginning of life”.

Individual scientists may of course have their own opinions on this matter, as well as personal religious views.

This question is not really a scientific question but more of a philosophical one. Opinions may and do vary, not only among scientists but among philosophers, religious people and so on.

Some points to consider

  • From a biological perspective, the fertilised egg is alive - but then so are the unfertilised egg and the sperms.
  • The fertilised egg has different DNA than either parent, however identical twins have the same DNA and they’re still distinct individuals.
  • An embryo can divide into two and form identical twins up to 15 days after fertilisation. If life begins at conception, where did the second life come from?
  • It is estimated that, under normal circumstances, around half of all fertilised eggs don’t implant in the uterus and are flushed from the body when the woman next has her period.

Articles

Pro-choice? Pro-abortion? Pro-life?

The term pro-choice refers to the position that the owner of the womb chooses how and when it is used. This means that if the woman does not want an abortion she should not be forced to have one, and if she does want it she should not be prevented from doing so. Many pro-choice people do not subscribe to the belief that life begins at conception.

It is possible to be pro-abortion, and some people believe that there’s an overpopulation problem and are literally in favour of abortion to keep the population down, but this is a very different position from pro-choice, and rather uncommon.

Pro-life typically means that the individual believes that life begins at conception, and that once life has begun, the fetus has a right to life, which places an obligation on the woman to at least reach viability and give birth. Some opponents object to the title “pro-life” since they consider both sides to be equally pro-life (they just disagree on when that life begins). Others point out an apparent inconsistency since many who use the title pro-life are also in favour of the death penalty and tend to be war supporters.

Is abortion legal in Malta?

No.

In legal terms, the criminal code allows no exception whatsoever - not if the woman’s life is in danger, not if the fetus cannot survive after birth, nothing. In fact, in the English version of the law, the term used is “miscarriage” - anything that causes a miscarriage is a crime. There are prison terms for the woman as well as any medic involved - the latter could also be permanently banned from practising medicine.

In practical terms, doctors will do what is necessary to save a woman’s life if need be, and then nobody says anything to anyone. There have even been cases where the police were told about someone having a life-saving abortion and they refused to prosecute.

However doctors are operating in a legal limbo and have no guarantee that the police will not one day launch an investigation and press charges.

Medics who believe that someone got an abortion or attempted one do report the woman to the police. There was a suggestion in parliament (which was subsequently shot down) to prevent pregnant women from leaving the country if it’s suspected that they might get an abortion abroad, and there was indeed a case when this happened. This happened before Malta joined the EU and Maltese women were guaranteed freedom of movement.

What does the law actually say?

Articles 241-244 of the Criminal Code say the following:

241. (1) Whosoever, by any food, drink, medicine, or by violence, or by any other means whatsoever, shall cause the miscarriage of any woman with child, whether the woman be consenting or not, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from eighteen months to three years.

(2) The same punishment shall be awarded against any woman who shall procure her own miscarriage, or who shall have consented to the use of the means by which the miscarriage is procured.

242. If the means used shall cause the death of the woman, or shall cause a serious injury to her person, whether the miscarriage has taken place or not, the offender shall, on conviction, be liable to the punishment applicable to wilful homicide or wilful bodily harm, diminished by one to three degrees.

243. Any physician, surgeon, obstetrician, or apothecary, who shall have knowingly prescribed or administered the means whereby the miscarriage is procured, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from eighteen months to four years, and to perpetual interdiction from the exercise of his profession.

243A. Whosoever, through imprudence, carelessness, unskilfulness in his art or profession, or non-observance of regulations, causes the miscarriage of a woman with child, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine (multa) not exceeding two thousand and three hundred and twenty-nine euro and thirty-seven cents (2,329.37).

In Maltese

241. (1) Kull min b’ikel, b’xorb, b’mediċini, jew bi vjolenza, jew b’kull mezz ieħor, jikkaġuna l-abort ta’ mara tqila, sew bil-kunsens kemm ukoll mingħajr il-kunsens tagħha, jeħel, meta jinsab ħati, il-piena ta’ priġunerija minn tmintax-il xahar sa tliet snin.
(2) L-istess piena tingħata kontra l-mara li tikkaġuna l-abort fuqha nfisha, jew li tkun qagħdet għall-użu tal-mezzi li bihom l-abort ġie ikkaġunat.
242. Kemm-il darba l-mezzi li jsir użu minnhom jikkaġunaw il-mewt tal-mara jew ħsara kbira fuq il-persuna tagħha, sew jekk l-abort isir kemm jekk ma jsirx, l-akkużat, meta jinsab ħati, jeħel il-piena stabbilita għall-omiċidju volontarju jew għall-offiżi volontarji fuq il-persuna, imnaqqsa minn grad sa tliet gradi.
243. Kull tabib, kirurgu, ostetriku jew spiżjar illi xjentement ikun wera jew ta l-mezzi li jkunu ikkaġunaw l-abort, jeħel, meta jinsab ħati, il-piena ta’ priġunerija minn tmintax-il xahar sa erba’ snin u l-piena tal-interdizzjoni perpetwa mill-eżerċizzju tal-professjoni tiegħu.
243A. Kull min, b’nuqqas ta’ ħsieb, bi traskuraġni, b’nuqqas ta’ ħila fl-arti jew professjoni tiegħu, jew b’nuqqas ta’ tħaris ta’ regolamenti, jikkaġuna l-abort ta’ mara tqila jeħel, meta jinsab ħati, il-piena ta’ priġunerija għal żmien ta’ mhux iżjed minn sitt xhur jew multa ta’ mhux iżjed minn elfejn tliet mija u disgħa u għoxrin euro u sebgħa u tletin ċenteżmu (2,329.37).

Is Abortion a Right?

While you will not find an explicit mention of abortion as a human right in any treaties and documents that confer these rights, just as you will not find a mention of eating and drinking as a human right, it has been confirmed by many bodies that restricting access to abortion is a breach of a woman's rights.

  • On the 9th June 2016, the United Nations' Human Rights Committee found that Ireland's restrictive abortion laws are a breach of human rights, subjecting women to "suffering and discrimination". Read more here.
  • In November 2015, Northern Ireland's High Court ruled that N.Ireland's abortion law breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Read more here and here.
  • See also: Safe and Legal Abortion is a Woman's Human Right (PDF)

Can a woman get an abortion pill in Malta?

The abortion pill is not legal to buy or use anywhere in Malta, although a number of international organisations including Women on Web and Women Help Women are known to send abortion pills to all countries by post.

Can a woman get an abortion abroad?

It is legal to have an abortion in a country where abortion is legal. Freedom of movement laws mean that a woman cannot be prevented from leaving the country.

Most Maltese women who need an abortion get it done in the UK or Italy. The only country providing statistics is the UK, which shows that the number of women from Malta having abortions there is in the vicinity of 50 per year, peaking at 78 in 2009.

Costs of abortions vary, but generally become more expensive the later it is in the pregnancy.

Are abortions safe?

Both abortions and childbirth carry some risks. Abortions are actually safer than childbirth (when done in a proper hospital or clinic). Abortions are safer the earlier they occur. Obviously, clandestine abortions carry very serious risks, whether “home made” or backalley abortions.

There is serious concern that the requirement in Malta for medical practitioners to report women who attempt abortions to the police will discourage them from seeking medical help should they need any, which places increased risk on women's lives.

Does a woman suffer emotional problems after an abortion?

The most widely-reported emotion felt by women after having an abortion is relief. In a study by the University of California, 95% of all women felt it was the right decision. Even among women who reported negative feelings, 89% still felt it was the right decision to make. By comparison, women who were denied an abortion due to legal restrictions reported anger and regret.

A 2010 study of women in Ireland found that 87% of women who had an abortion felt it was the right outcome for them.

The emotions felt by women vary greatly from one person to another, and are likely to be influenced by one’s religious or cultural background, as well as the circumstances leading to the abortion. An unintended miscarriage tends to produce more negative feelings than an abortion. A late abortion or miscarriage can also cause symptoms similar to post-natal depression, and for the same reasons. This is usually short term but, like post-natal depression, can also persist.

Other factors influencing women’s emotions are, whether they receive support from others, whether they receive judgemental treatment, whether the abortion was due to an unwanted pregnancy or a severe deformity in the fetus, etc.

No comparable information exists for Malta.

More reading:

 

What is the MHA’s position on the ECP, abortion, etc?

MHA is in favour of the introduction of Emergency Contraceptive Pills.

See our press release supporting the Women's Rights Foundation.

MHA has not taken a position on abortion, in part due to different opinions among our members. However we have supported a call for a mature discussion on the subject.

See our press release.

MHA has expressed its support for IVF, including the use of embryo freezing.

See our press release.

Note: The Malta Humanist Association is non-dogmatic, and our members can have and express positions different to these.

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Death & Funerals

Are there Humanist Funerals and Memorial Services?

Yes, the Malta Humanist Association has a team of trained and accredited celebrants who can conduct Humanist services. You can contact one of our celebrants directly to discuss the service required. Alternatively, your funeral director will get in touch with us to arrange the necessary meeting.

What alternatives exist for disposing of the body?

Donating your body to science

Some Humanists opt to make arrangements for their body to be used for science and medical training after they die. If you are interested in this, here is a page that provides more details.

Organ Donor Scheme

We encourage our members to enroll in the organ donor scheme, in order to allow your organs to be donated after death. If you wish to enroll, visit the Malta Transplant Support Group.

Note that, at present, the organ donor card is not binding and only indicates your wishes (though there are plans to make such matters binding). Make sure your wishes are clearly communicated to your next of kin.

Burial

State-owned Cemeteries

The Addolorata cemetery in Malta, and Xewkija cemetery in Gozo are both government owned, and as such no religious restrictions exist.

Non-Catholic burials in church cemeteries

There's always been a bit of a question mark over the matter of family-owned graves within church-owned cemeteries - can a person who is not a church member be buried in the family grave, or will there be last-minute problems?

In response to an email sent to former archbishop Paul Cremona for clarification, he wrote back saying that yes, non-Catholics including those who left the church can be buried in family graves in church cemeteries.

Cremation

There are no cremation facilities at present in Malta, although there has been talk about opening such a facility. Some funeral services companies provide facilities for cremation to be done overseas.

Burial at Sea

Burial at sea is legal (though it may be expensive). Most undertakers and funeral directors will make the necessary arrangements if this is desired.

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Marriage

Are Humanist Marriages available in Malta?

Yes, the Malta Humanist Association has a team of trained and accredited celebrants who can conduct Humanist services. You can contact one of our celebrants directly to discuss the service required.

Note that, at present, Humanist Marriages are not automatically registered with the state. You will therefore have to do the paperwork in advance at the Public Registry Office in Valletta or in Gozo, or make arrangements for a Public Registry official to attend at the marriage venue.

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