The Malta Independent 3 February 2023, Friday
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Amendment to abortion bill wording at its ‘conclusive stage’ - PM

Monday, 23 January 2023, 15:35 Last update: about 10 days ago

The government’s amendment to the wording of the abortion bill is at its “conclusive stage,” Prime Minister Robert Abela said Monday.

The bill, as it is now, reads that no crime under the clauses banning abortion under Maltese law would 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.”

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On 4 January, Health Minister Chris Fearne had announced during a press conference that the government was to propose amendments to the wording of the bill after protests by the anti-abortion lobby, who interpreted the wording as meaning that abortion will be made legal.

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.

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.

Last week, Fearne said that any amendments to the abortion bill will be discussed at committee stage once the Consideration of Bills committee has finished debating the bill to amend the Standards in Public Life Act.

Asked on Monday by The Malta Independent for the exact wording of the changes to the abortion bill, Abela said that the government has had a number of discussion with anyone who had “genuine” concerns, and from these discussions is addressing two main points.

The first point he mentioned was a concern that there may be a doctor who abuses the amendment and allows an abortion to take place when it should not. Therefore, the government is working to make sure that it is not abused.

The second point he raised was that the wording should ensure that a baby which can be born is born and is allowed to live. He said that the wording of the amendment was clarify that any viable pregnancy must be seen through, with the baby being born.

He added that this process “is not a race against time” and that is why the government is consulting with anyone who has “genuine” concerns.

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