The Malta Independent 3 February 2023, Friday
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Abortion bill debate to proceed after changes to Standards Act – minister

Monday, 16 January 2023, 14:39 Last update: about 17 days ago

The amendment to the abortion bill will be discussed once the Consideration of Bills committee has finished debating the bill to amend the Standards in Public Life Act, which would take "a few days or weeks," Health Minister Chris Fearne said Monday.

The abortion bill reform was voted through the second reading stage on 19 December, with PL MPs voting in favour and PN MPs voting against. The abortion bill, as it stands so far, will introduce a new clause into Malta's Criminal Code, allowing exceptions to Malta's strict anti-abortion laws. 

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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 bill amending the Standards in Public Life Act aims to introduce an anti-deadlock mechanism for the appointment of the Standards Commissioner.

The newly proposed mechanism lays down that the Standards Commissioner should be nominated with the support of both sides of the house, but in the event that the required two-thirds majority is not reached, then the appointment is made via a simple majority.

Currently, this bill is still being discussed at the second reading stage.

When responding to media questions about the amendment to the abortion bill reform on Monday, Fearne could not give a date for when the amendment would be discussed at committee stage.

"The Consideration of Bills committee needs to analyse this amendment and there will be an opportunity for MPs from both sides to propose amendments to the amendment itself."

He said that the amendments will continue supporting medical professionals to carry out their work without fear that their clinical decision might result in being criminally charged.

On 4 January, Fearne had announced during a press conference that the government was to propose amendments to the bill. He had 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 is he raised was that there may be a doctor who abuses 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 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 on exactly what form this amendment would take.

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