ValEs1989/iStock/Thinkstock(VALLETTA, Malta) — A new play has sparked controversy in Malta by daring to tackle one of the nation's oldest taboos: abortion.
De-terminated: The Abortion Diaries, written and directed by the journalist Herman Grech, has sparked debate in a country with one of the world's strictest abortion policies.
Malta is the only country in the European Union with an outright ban on abortion.
Grech based the play on a series of interviews he conducted in 2017 with people affected by the law, but he's adamant his own opinions on the matter are "irrelevant."
"What I wanted to address, mainly, is the Maltese culture of intolerance where it comes to abortion, where both opposing camps shout at the other side in a tribal manner," he told ABC News. "By its very nature, abortion is a divisive subject, but that doesn't mean that you don't equip yourself with facts to make your arguments."
Hundreds of Maltese women are known to seek abortion abroad with no support network to assist them, Grech said.
"While Malta has among the most progressive laws in the world where it comes to LGBTQ issues, abortion is a big taboo," he added.
Malta’s abortion policies have been repeatedly criticized by the formed EU Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks. In February he wrote an article in the Times of Malta stressing the need to reform abortion law, after writing a letter to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in December 2017.
Muižnieks told the prime minister women who travel to other countries or pay for illegal abortions at home face a system of de facto discrimination, which is biased against those who can't afford such measures. In reply on Jan. 8, Joseph Muscat said, "My Government neither has the political mandate to open a debate on access to abortion, nor the support of the public opinion on this matter."
Dr. Miriam Sciberras, chairman of Life Network Malta, told ABC news Maltese laws protect women from the "trauma" of abortion.
"Women are not deprived of lifesaving treatment in pregnancy, should they need it — their lives are not in danger but safeguarded," she said. "The preborn child is also safe in the womb and protected by law."
"De-terminated," which just premiered, is set to reopen the national conversation that some believe has been suppressed for too long.
"It's not up to me to try to change the law," Grech said. "But I think theater is a great medium to spark a debate."
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