A bill to make abortion legal when the life of the mother is at risk in a country where abortion laws are the strictest in Europe was tabled for the first time in Maltese parliament on Monday.
Under the current law, it is illegal for a woman in Malta to get an abortion or go through any procedure that may trigger one, regardless of the circumstances and even if her life is in danger. The situation came to a head in the summer when a pregnant American woman on holiday in the Catholic island-state started miscarrying but was refused a termination.
After much negotiation with the authorities, she was finally airlifted to Spain to carry out the procedure, but the incident sparked significant debate in the country.
Health Minister Chris Fearne tabled the motion to amend the criminal code. It was seconded by MP Michael Farrugia, a doctor by profession.
The amendments will prevent doctors or mothers from being subject to criminal proceedings and possible prison terms if a termination is carried out for health reasons.
The amendments will now proceed to a second reading where the bill will be introduced and read to the house. It will then pass to the health committee which will proceed with a more in-depth discussion. Then it will go to a third reading and a vote.
Meanwhile, the Archibishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna, asked that the door not be left open for introducing abortion.
“I ask in God’s name ask that we do not leave the door ajar to abortion with a clause that may end up being twisted so that the exception becomes the rule,” the Archbishop said.
The Nationalist Party (EPP) in opposition who are historically more anti-abortion than the Labour Party (S&D) who tabled the bill, are yet to comment. However, as the ruling party has a majority, their votes would not change the outcome of the proposals.
(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)