UPDATE, 6/28/23: Malta’s Parliament has unanimously approved the amendments to its criminal code, “allowing for abortion procedures to be administered in exceptional cases,” according to Malta Today. “Doctors will be able to terminate a pregnancy if a woman’s health is in grave jeopardy but only if the medical condition could lead to her death,” the outlet notes, adding, “The law will specifically prevent doctors from terminating a pregnancy if current medical practice deems the foetus to be viable. In this case, doctors will first have to deliver the baby before any medical intervention is carried out to treat the woman.
6/26/23: Malta, one of the most pro-life countries in the world, has been in the international spotlight for its laws due to an American tourist who claimed she nearly died after being refused an abortion. Though a proposal has clarified the law on pregnancy interventions when a woman’s life is at risk, preborn children remain protected from intentional, deliberate killing via abortion — and abortion advocates are furious.
The government has proposed a bill which would allow an abortion when the mother’s life is at risk (despite the fact that intentionally and directly killing a preborn child in such a situation would not be necessary). After some outcry, amendments were added to the bill clarifying the legislation: abortion can only be considered if the mother’s life is at risk, all other medical practices have been exhausted, and the pregnancy itself is not viable. Additionally, three doctors will need to sign off on the abortion procedure.
“I think today, we all agree that if a woman is going to lose her life, we need to save her,” Health Minister Chris Fearne said in a press conference. “And we need to legislate for this.”
The goal of the legislation is to removed any supposed uncertainty doctors may have about when to intercede in an at-risk pregnancy. However, a coalition of abortion activists claims the amendments will mean pregnant women will end up “permanently disabled or dead.”
“[T]he government is effectively saying that women should only be protected if they are going to die,” the Voice for Choice Coalition said.
Another group, Doctors for Choice, also criticized the amendments. “By caving in to the demands of people who do not care about women’s wellbeing and are only interested in maintaining a ban on abortion, the government has put all women who can get pregnant in our country in jeopardy,” they said. “We view this law as a regressive step and call upon the government to immediately halt its progression through parliament and avoid making a historical mistake.”
Despite the fevered warnings of abortion activists, induced abortion — the intentional taking of a preborn life — is not medically necessary. The case of Andrea Prudente, which caused such international outrage, was handled correctly, according to the doctors who treated her. Prudente suffered a preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM); though they found her cervix had closed and amniotic fluid remained, doctors responded quickly and thoroughly, giving her intravenous antibiotics and monitoring her closely for any signs of infection.
Consultants also agreed with the doctors’ testimony, saying that abortion might have been necessary if the woman was dying, but Prudente was never in any danger.
Despite the controversies regarding abortion, preborn children seem likely to remain protected in Malta despite intense pressure to legalize it. President George Vella has repeatedly said he would resign before signing a bill legalizing abortion into law.