Malta to review abortion policy after Prudente case sparks outrage

The Maltese government announced on Thursday it was revisiting its abortion ban following controversy over an American woman who was denied an abortion despite the baby having a miscarriage and threatening her life.

According to the country’s Health Minister Chris Fern, parts of the Maltese law “that prevent doctors from providing assistance when needed” will be considered.

This is the first comment by the Maltese government since international outrage and domestic protests over case of Andrea Prudente last week.

A 38-year-old Seattle woman was denied an abortion at a Malta hospital last week after she suffered an incomplete miscarriage on a Mediterranean island.

Her fetus had no chance of surviving and could cause potentially fatal bleeding and infection in Prudente. However, the doctors refused to intervene due to the country’s strict abortion law.

Malta, a predominantly Catholic country, is the only European Union member state to completely ban abortion without any exceptions.

Prudente, who was 16 weeks pregnant, and her partner Jay Wildryer were medically evacuated to Spain, where Prudente later received treatment.

The couple traveled to Malta for their baby moon, a holiday celebration for parents to bond before the birth of their child.

Domestic protests and international attention

Their case provoked protests representatives of the Maltese medical community and drew the attention of the international community to the country’s legislation based on British colonial laws introduced on the island in the 1800s.

“Maltese law should in no way prevent our doctors and specialists from saving lives,” said Fern, a former surgeon.

Anyone who has an abortion or causes a miscarriage faces up to four years in prison. This applies to both doctors and pregnant women.

“I have the assurance of a public attorney [Malta’s top legal official] that in such cases, no action is taken against the medical workers who provide treatment and do everything possible to save lives, ”said Fern.

“This is not an isolated case. […] It has been and will continue to be so,” he added.

However, Fern did not mention possible changes in the legislation of the country, where this issue is rarely discussed by politicians.

Neither the Mater Dei hospital, where Prudente was admitted, nor the Maltese government commented on the case.

On Monday, more than 130 Maltese doctors sued the abortion ban, saying it prevents doctors from providing “immediate and timely care”.

“Our laws disregard these women, risking their lives needlessly,” said gynecologist Isabelle Stabile, who led the doctors’ protest and helped Prudente and her partner.

“Most of the women living here do not have private insurance to help them evacuate to receive much-needed treatment abroad,” Stabile added.

Malta is the first European country visited by a couple from the United States.

“We wanted to come here and have a romantic two-week vacation to celebrate the birth of a family,” Weeldreier told Euronews on June 24. “Instead, we will have to face danger for Andrea.”