American tourist denied abortion after miscarriage, makes public plea

American couple demand termination of fetus in miscarriage suffered while on holiday, in the hope of averting serious infection for woman

An American woman in Malta is being refused the termination of her 16-week pregnancy, after being admitted to Mater Dei suffering a miscarriage.

The tourist on holiday in Malta, attended the Gozo emergency unit and was later admitted to Mater Dei Hospital after suffering what seemed like a miscarriage, with heavy bleeding followed by breaking waters.

An ultrasound showed ruptured membranes and a detaching placenta, but the fetus still has a heartbeat.

Yet while the patient has requested termination of pregnancy, her request was denied. “She was told doctors can only intervene if she is imminently dying – not even getting an infection is enough. She was also told doctors cannot even discuss the option of abortion with her,” Doctors for Choice, Malta’s medial pro choice organisation, said.

“The patient is now being forced to watch and wait at Mater Dei, putting her life at risk. The family is rightly distraught and desperate for a solution. Medical evacuation to the UK is being planned but this may not arrive in time.”

Doctors for Choice said international obstetric guidelines state that in such cases where the fetus is not yet viable, before 24 weeks, abortion should be offered to avoid the risk of maternal infection and death. Infection can go through the ruptured membranes, into the uterus, then into the blood leading to death.

Doctors for Choice member and gynecologist Isabel Stabile went through the medical records of the woman. "Her water broke about a week ago and there is practically no amniotic fluid left, which make the chances of survival of the fetus very low. She is waiting for the fetus to die,” she said.

The American couple told Doctors for Choice they want their story made public in the hope of avoiding a tragedy.

“We do not want to have a case like Savita’s!” referring to the Irish cause celebre of Savita Halappanavar, a dentist, who died from sepsis after her request for an abortion was denied on legal grounds. In the wake of a nationwide outcry over her death, voters passed in a landslide the Thirty-Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, which repealed the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland and empowered MPs to legislate for abortion.

“We hope common sense prevails and this woman is allowed to have a termination before it is too late. We have also heard from Maltese women who were in similar situations but were scared to speak out. This is not right. Women have beating hearts too!” Doctors for Choice said.