The Malta Independent 16 August 2022, Tuesday

There should be nothing in the law which precludes medical staff from saving lives - Fearne

Thursday, 30 June 2022, 11:37 Last update: about 3 months ago

Health Minister Chris Fearne has asked for a review of Malta’s laws after the case of an American woman who faced pregnancy complications but was denied an abortion in Malta made international headlines.

Answering questions from the media about Malta’s abortion laws on Thursday, Fearne said he believes there should be nothing in the law which precludes medical staff from saving lives.

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It is to this end that he said that he had asked for a review of the relevant legislation in order to ascertain whether any parts of it preclude doctors from providing a service as necessary in any instance.

Fearne said that he is awaiting feedback on the review.

The questions come after Andrea Prudente, an American citizen, was 16 weeks pregnant in Malta when she began to suffer from heavy bleeding as a result of her pregnancy becoming unviable, even though the fetus was still alive.

The case drew international attention after Prudente was refused an abortion despite the risk of her suffering from what could have turned out to be a fatal infection.  She ultimately travelled to Spain for the medical procedure after her health insurance stepped in.

Fearne told journalists that in cases such as that of the American woman, which he said was not an isolated one, the Attorney General did not take legal steps against medical professionals who are saving lives.

Malta has the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, with a blanket ban on the procedure in place in all cases – however the case threw up a debate as to when doctors can and cannot act in the case where a mother’s life may be in danger.

As things stand, it is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for a doctor or medical professional to perform an abortion.

A group of 135 doctors signed and submitted a judicial protest on Monday which asks for a review of Malta’s abortion laws, saying that medical teams treating Prudente had their hands tied.  A pro-life doctors group hit back at the protest, claiming that the protest would grant a ‘carte-blanche’ for abortion to take place in all cases – something disputed by the pro-choice doctors NGO.

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