Abela defends government’s abortion exemption bill, says PN is trying to scare people
When responding to claims made by the Nationalist Party (PN), Prime Minister, Robert Abela, said that the abortion law exemption bill does not make abortion legal.
Abela said that after consulting with the State Advocate, it was revealed that Malta’s anti-abortion law does not allow any room for exception and that is why they had decided to draft this law.
Abela called for petty politics to stop when discussing such a sensitive crucial topic and said that the PN is only making these arguments to score some political points.
“The opposition is trying to scare people”, he said.
When talking about Andrea Prudente’s case, he said that the doctors knew that her pregnancy was not viable, however, they were not able to intervene because her life would have had to be at risk.
Andrea Prudente is an American citizen who was 16 weeks pregnant in Malta last summer, when she began to suffer from heavy bleeding as a result of her pregnancy becoming unviable, even though the fetus was still alive. The case drew international attention after Prudente was refused an abortion despite the risk of her suffering from what could have turned out to be a fatal infection. She ultimately travelled to Spain for the medical procedure to be undergone.
Abela said that the government’s bill does not make abortion legal, because it will still be illegal for a mother to decide whether she wants an abortion. Instead, with this amendment, an abortion will only take place if the doctor identifies a medical complication which puts the woman’s health in grave jeopardy.
He said that the government will not look away from these cases, because it understands the realities that take place in Malta.
“The amendment is clear, it is there to give peace of mind to mothers and doctors”, he said.
The doctors can intervene and protect the life of the mother, but abortion will remain illegal. He further pointed out how the laws determining on-demand abortion as being illegal will also remain the same.
Nationalist MP, Adrian Delia, asked why this amendment came about following the complaint of Prudente, whose life was not at risk.
He said that the current law had never hurt anybody and he could not understand why an amendment was being proposed.
He also said that a doctor was never found guilty because they tried to save a life.
“The proposal means that every reason that affects a woman’s life is reason enough to terminate the life of an unborn child”, he said.
He said that the amendment of this law would mean that the legislators were taking it upon themselves to decide when to end a person’s life.
PN MP, Stephen Spiteri, said that the law needs to be clearer and to specify what physical health issues and mental health issues, which might cause an abortion to take place, are.
He also expressed his concern that these vague amendments would reflect the ones passed in the United Kingdom, which eventually had led to on-demand abortion.
“If we are not careful, what is going to happen here is what happened in other countries, and abortion will be legal”, he said.
PN MP, Mark Anthony Sammut, started off by saying that he has “never heard so many contradictions from the government”.
He asked the government MPs to sit down with each other and figure out where they stand. He said that there are MPs within the PL who believe that the amendment is there to prevent similar occurences to Prudente’s case, whilst there are others who are saying that the amendment will not prevent Prudente’s case from repeating itself.
He slammed the cannabis reform and asked how anyone is supposed to trust the government with amending a law dealing with people’s life after that.
He said that if these loopholes come to pass, Malta could be permitting very late-stage abortions overnight as the amendment does not distinguish between the different stages of pregnancy, and this could pass as long as the doctor can confirm a health issue.
PL MP, Glenn Bedingfield, said that with this amendment the government wants to defend women through this law.
In response to the PN saying that there are no cases where a medical professional was unable to carry out their duty and save lives, Bedingfield said that there are many cases that are not publicised and spoken about.
“We are not legalising abortion, it will remain illegal in our country”, he said.
“The opposition is saying that they want both the child and the mother dead. You want the woman dead and the doctors in prison”, he said.
This caused a furious reaction from the PN, which was followed by a point of order called by Robert Cutajar, who said that Bedingfield was misleading the room with his comments.
Bedingfield said that the opposition is just trying to scare people, and that this was all a political campaign.
He said that the woman has no choice in a matter like this, but it would be the doctor who chooses whether the pregnancy should be terminated. This can only be the case if there is a medical complication that is placing a risk on the woman’s health or putting her health in a grievous situation.
Bedingfield also condemned the PN for treating mental health issues as secondary to any other issues. He said that mental health issues should be respected like any other health issues.
PL MP, Rosianne Cutajar, spoke about the importance of respecting women and building a safer environment for them through this law.
She accused the PN of not wanting to respect women, as it did not wish to adopt a legislative amendment which saves a woman’s life.
“Your message is clear, the PN is not the women’s party”, she said.
She said that Prudente’s case was not the only case worth mentioning. She also brought up Marion Mifsud Mora’s case, who had nearly died after she gave birth to a dead foetus.
She said that following Prudente’s case, it was clear that in situations like this a medical abortion would be needed and that is why this amendment was proposed in turn.