Abela says authorities have been closing a blind eye to medical abortions for years
Prime Minister, Robert Abela, said that the State Advocate had informed him that the State has technically been closing an eye to medical abortions, which were carried out to save women’s lives, for years.
The government has presented a legal amendment which would allow doctors to act in cases where the health of a pregnant woman is at grave risk.
When asked about the criticism that there are loopholes within the proposed abortion law amendment, he said that the “loopholes exist today.”
Abela said that there is an informal secret practice taking place at Mater Dei Hospital, where a number of medical professionals have decided how to function with the best interests of the patients in mind.
For a number of years, medical professionals have thought that they are immune to proceedings against abortion, if they carry out an abortion in the last moments when a woman’s life is at risk.
He called this an “artificial peace of mind”. He said that the State Advocate had informed him that this practice, which has been taking place over a number of years, was in breach of the law.
Abela said that in reality, when medical professionals choose to carry out abortions to save a woman’s life, instead of letting both the mother and foetus die, this was being done against the law.
“Technically, all the medical professionals and the prospective mothers who went through this procedure committed the crime of abortion”, he said.
As a result, the State Advocate must close a blind eye to all these previous cases as well, he said.
The government has presented a legal amendment to change this situation.
Times of Malta reported that President George Vella is considering the option to resign if the amendment is approved as proposed by the government.
When Abela was asked about this by the media, he said that he holds discussions regularly with Vella. However, when pressed about what Vella said about this legislative amendment, he said that the details will remain confidential, and suggested that the question be asked to Vella himself.
He said that there were other presidents in the past who had reservations about certain laws. Therefore, he said that discussions will continue taking place with Vella and all the other stakeholders about the amendment itself.
Once again he said that this law would not be legalising abortion, where he said that this was a false narrative spread by the Nationalist Party to create confusion and fear.
The Malta Union of Midwives and Nurses (MUMN) is calling for an urgent meeting with Abela and Health Minister, Chris Fearne, so as to discuss the abortion law amendment.
The president of the MUMN, Paul Pace, said that the MUMN is worried about the vagueness of the amendment, and how a mental health diagnosis might be subject to personal opinion.
The proposed drafted bill raises concerns with nurses and midwives who are major stakeholders in providing care, and these concerns need to be addressed before the bill becomes law, the MUMN said in a statement.
The MUMN had said that abortion is a highly ethical subject which concerns the morality of the person. “The bill requires wording which truly safeguards the mother in life threatening situations, but also the rights of the unborn child. Steam rolling by ignoring the stakeholders who have to assist in such procedures should not be used by any politician, let alone the office of the Prime Minister”, the MUMN said. “Such a bill should strive to bring unity between all stakeholders by allowing everyone to contribute so consensus is achieved.” The MUMN said that it would be forwarding its proposals to safeguard both the life of the mother and the unborn child. MUMN would be bringing forward both ethical and moral difficulties encountered by its members being midwives or nurses as a result of the abortion law amendments, it said.
When asked whether there will be any guidelines for doctors to make decisions in moments where the woman’s mental health is at risk, Prime Minister Abela said that he trusts medical professionals to carry out their job properly and to follow the best practices.
If anyone would abuse this amendment then there will be criminal proceedings as a consequence, Abela said.
Abela said that the law has been made clear because of the word “grievous”. This word was included in the law to qualify the situations where this procedure can take place, and will be followed by the medical professionals under the definition of grievous from the “best practices”.
He said that the government could have done nothing after Prudente’s case, and instead, it had chosen to act to protect women and doctors.