The Malta Independent 3 February 2023, Friday
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Parliament continues debate over the wording of the abortion law amendment bill

Tuesday, 6 December 2022, 19:41 Last update: about 3 months ago

Discussions over the wording of the abortion law amendment bill continued during the parliamentary sitting on Tuesday evening.

A bill that will make abortion legal when a pregnant woman's life is at risk or her health is in "grave jeopardy" was presented in parliament on 21 November. The amendments are intended to free doctors and pregnant women from the threat of criminal prosecution if a pregnancy is terminated for those reasons, the government said.

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The main issue has to do with the fact that the current wording allows situations where the pregnancy can be terminated if the woman's health is in "grave jeopardy".

During Tuesday's parliamentary sitting, PN MP Darren Carabott said that the bill was supposed to be proposed to regulate practices that have been taking place and not include something new.

He also pointed out how Abela admitted that there are people who might misinterpret the wording of the law.

He mentioned how even the doctors union believe that this bill reform will create more problems.

He appealed to the government to admit to its shortcomings and change the law to protect the foetus.

Culture Minister Owen Bonnici began his speech by reciting three stories of three different Irish women, Savita, Claire and X, who died, suffered grievous health injuries, and suffered severe mental health issues respectively, due to health complications they experienced during childbirth.

He said that although they were not Maltese he was sure that there were Maltese and Gozitan women who could relate to this story.

He said that it is not enough to amend the law to cater for life-and-death situations solely.

"If we limit ourselves to that, a few months or years will pass and we will have to come here again to amend again the law to cater for more circumstances because history has shown us that we have left a lot of pain and a lot of injustice," he said.

He expressed how he was shocked by the insensitivity of some who said that it was not important if a woman's health was in grave jeopardy.

He added that a woman should not be considered less important if her health is in grave jeopardy.

He said that he cannot accept a situation where a woman's health would be in grave jeopardy and the doctor would have to wait until her life is at risk to see if the pregnancy should be terminated.

"I cannot accept that a woman whose health is in grave jeopardy, due to medical circumstances linked to her pregnancy, is not given a voice, and instead of her deciding, we the legislators decide that she does not have a voice. Who will live with the consequences of the serious medical circumstances, us or the woman?"

"It must be a decision made by all parties involved including the doctors. Not of the politicians. Not of the clergy. Not of NGOs. But the women's decisions. Of the family together with the doctors."

PN MP Graziella Attard Previ said that they are in favour of a bill that protects the doctor and the woman when the pregnancy has to be terminated if the woman's life is at risk.

She said that the word "health" in the bill reform needs to be clarified to protect the foetus in all scenarios where the woman's life would not be at risk.

She said that if the government are really pro-life then they would amend it and clarify the wording.

Energy Minister Miriam Dalli condemned the PN for insensitive comments throughout the second reading of the bill, as the cases this bill reform addresses are prospective mothers who want to give birth but cannot due to medical complications.

She also condemned the PN for "lying" by saying that under this bill reform an eight-month-old foetus would be aborted.

She clarified that the PL are talking about extreme situations, but in situations where lives can be saved then the lives will be saved.

Dalli also condemned the PN for lengthening the discussion when there might be cases that would need to be addressed immediately which cannot be addressed because they are still discussing this bill.

She also said that instead of PN leader Bernard Grech having a mature discussion, he ridiculed women in his speech. She also criticised all the PN MPs for banging their table in support of Grech's comments.

"Abortion was illegal, it is illegal, and with this bill, it will remain illegal," she said.

PN MP Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici spoke about the importance of having a mature discussion on such a sensitive topic. He said that he was worried when he saw discussions that result in MPs banging their tables when debating on such a sensitive topic.

He asked for everyone to work together to refine the wording of the law, to keep abortion illegal whilst protecting women and doctors when the life of the woman is at risk.

He also said that all groups deserve to have a voice in this bill reform. He particularly defended the church and said that it still deserves to be respected.

"I appeal to the use of reason," he said.


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