HumanInsight Accessing abortion in a highly restrictive legal regime: characteristics of women and pregnant people in Malta self-managing their abortion through online telemedicine
BMJ Sex Reprod Health. 2023 Feb 15:bmjsrh-2022-201730. doi: 10.1136/bmjsrh-2022-201730. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the numbers and characteristics of women and pregnant people in Malta seeking at-home medical abortion using online telemedicine from 2017 to 2021.
DESIGN: Population-based study.
SETTING: Republic of Malta PARTICIPANTS: Between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2021, 1090 women and pregnant people requested at-home medical abortion through one online telemedicine provider (Women on Web). Mifepristone and misoprostol were shipped to 658 women (60.4% of requests).
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The numbers and demographics of persons to which abortion pills were shipped, their reasons for accessing abortion, and reasons for requesting medical abortion via telemedicine between January 2017 and December 2021 were analysed. Selected data were compared across different groups.
RESULTS: The number of people in Malta to whom medical abortion pills were shipped increased significantly in the 5 years analysed. Women and pregnant people requesting medical abortion were diverse with respect to age, pregnancy circumstances and reasons for seeking an abortion. More than half had existing children and over 90% reached out to Women on Web at <7 weeks. Among those completing a medical abortion, 63% did not use contraception, and in 30% there was contraception failure. The most common reasons for ordering medical abortion pills online were difficulty accessing abortion because of legal restrictions (73%) and abortion pills not being available (45%) in the country.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite a complete ban on abortion, the number of women and pregnant people residing in Malta completing at-home medical abortions is considerable and has been steadily increasing.
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