Malta’s parliament passes restrictive law allowing abortion for the first time

For the first time, voluntary termination of pregnancy is only allowed on the island of Malta in cases where the mother’s life is in danger and the fetus is not viable. The text was adopted unanimously by parliamentarians, but pro-abortionists lament a missed opportunity for real reform.

On Wednesday 28 June, Malta’s parliament passed a law that allows abortion for the first time, but only in cases where the mother’s life is in danger and the fetus is not viable. The text was adopted unanimously by parliamentarians after last-minute changes.

Until then, Malta was the only member state in the EU where abortion remained illegal under any circumstances.

Following the high-profile case of an American tourist last year who was denied an abortion when her life was in danger and had to travel to Spain to terminate her pregnancy, Labor Prime Minister (L) Robert Abela had proposed a change to allow doctors to resort to abortion when the expectant mother’s life is in danger.

This project had received strong criticism from the conservative opposition and the Catholic Church, who believed that the wording of the law was too vague.

A text that is considered too restrictive

The final version of the text specifies that if the future mother’s life is not in imminent danger, the decision to abort requires an opinion from a team of three doctors. Abortion can also only take place if the fetus is not viable (cannot survive outside the woman’s womb) and all other permissible medical procedures are excluded.

Pro-abortion activists condemned the changes to the text, saying more women’s lives would be put at risk.

“You have given us hope, but only to return to your old positions,” Marcelin Naudi, an academic and activist, told a parliamentary committee on Monday. “You had the opportunity to instill change, but you turned your back on human rights and women’s rights.”

Despite the total ban on abortion, doctors at Malta’s main hospital have in practice terminated pregnancies in the past when the mother’s life was in danger. No doctor has been prosecuted in this case in recent years, but legally they incur up to four years in prison, while the woman who aborts risks up to three years in detention.

With AFP

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