Malta, concerns on abortion addressed by new legal amendments
LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – The Maltese government will present to the Parliament significant amendments to the controversial bill amending Maltàs criminal provisions on abortion with the intention to address the key concerns of those fearing it could legalize abortion.
Both Health Minister Chris Fearne and Justice Minister Jonathan Attard emphasized the necessity of the bill to amend Maltàs existing criminal provisions on abortion which are “over 150 years old”. The Maltese government felt the need to introduce the amendments after 38-year-old American citizen Andrea Prudente was denied a request for abortion in Malta after suffering the symptoms of a miscarriage.
The new amendments specify that Maltàs criminal provisions on abortion do not apply when a woman’s health is in “grave jeopardy which can lead to death,” a change that legalizes the current situation faced by medical practitioners and alters the scope and wording of the original bill presented in Parliament.
The original wording had been a key concern for pro-life activists and others opposed to the legal provision of abortion, leading a group of academics to propose an amendment that removed references to “grave jeopardy” entirely.
The new amendments have been welcomed by pro-life activists even though Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela, initially said that his government will not take up their proposal. However, pro-choice group Doctors For Choice said the bill went “from a law that would have protected women’s health to a law that could cost women their lives”. The Archdiocese of Malta has welcomed the government’s decision describing it as a “positive outcome that promotes right to life.”
In cases where a complication places the health of a woman in “grave jeopardy which may lead to death,” but not in imminent risk of loss of life, the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy would be taken by a team of three medical practitioners that would include two obstetricians or gynecologists – including the obstetrician that would carry out the intervention – and a specialist in the condition which the pregnant woman is suffering from. No timelines are specified in the bill.
The bill clarifies that the termination of a pregnancy is only considered in the case of fetuses that are not “capable of living outside the uterus according to current medical practices;” any that are would have to be delivered before any medical intervention is carried out.
It also specifies that procedures that may lead to the termination of a pregnancy may only be carried out in a licensed hospital.
The new amendments will now be discussed in a parliamentary committee session before it is voted upon in its third and final reading.