The Malta Independent 9 December 2023, Saturday
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No date set for Parliamentary committee to discuss abortion bill, PN Whip says

Kevin Schembri Orland Monday, 9 January 2023, 10:09 Last update: about 12 months ago

No date has yet been set for the Consideration of Bills Committee in Parliament to discuss the government's bill amending Malta's abortion laws, PN Whip Robert Cutajar confirmed with The Malta Independent.

The bill was voted through the second reading stage on 19 December, with PL MPs voting in favour and PN MPs voting against. 

The bill will introduce a new clause into Malta's Criminal Code, allowing exceptions to Malta's strict anti-abortion laws. The clause to be inserted reads: "No offence under article 241(2) or article 243 (these are the clauses that make abortion illegal in Malta) shall be committed when the termination of a pregnancy results from a medical intervention aimed at protecting the health of a pregnant woman suffering from a medical complication which may put her life at risk or her health in grave jeopardy."


Following the Second Reading stage, the bill will now need to be discussed within the Consideration of Bills Committee, where amendments to it can be made. 

The wording has been the subject of much controversy, with pro-life activists coming out against the bill for a number of reasons, arguing, among other things, that the term 'health' could also be interpreted to mean mental health issues.

Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne, on 4 January, announced during a press conference that the government will be proposing amendments to the bill. He said that there are two issues which have come across as being "genuine" worries, both of which will be addressed by amendments to the proposed Bill. One of them is to ensure that it is clear that a baby which can be born is born and is allowed to live. Fearne explained that the amendments would put beyond any doubt that any viable pregnancy must be seen through, with the baby being born.

The second issue raised was that there may be a doctor who abuses from the amendment and allows an abortion to take place when it shouldn't, he said. Fearne said that while he has full trust in the country's doctors and that anybody who does abuse of their position will answer for them, an amendment to the Bill will be made in order to "minimise" the possibility of abuse as much as possible. He did not elaborate exactly what form this amendment would take.

PN Whip Robert Cutajar said that he asked the PL Whip for a copy of the proposed amendments, however has not yet received them. He has also asked for a copy from Parliament but is informed that they are not yet on hand.

The Inti Tista' Ssalvani coalition led by the Life Network Foundation, Doctors for Life and I See Life had rejected the Health Minister's comments on the government's plans to "clarify" the proposal on changing the law which regulates abortion. This change to the amendment seems to highlight that the Government wishes to legalise abortion up to 24 weeks (about 5 and a half months), while only leaving late term abortions illegal, the coalition said. The government has no mandate to legislate for abortion, yet what the government seems to be proposing would allow, for instance, the abortion of a five-month old unborn child for reasons "that could" put the life of the mother "at risk or her health in grave jeopardy," the NGOs said.


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