Prudente case: the silence of Malta’s women MPs is deafening

Women MPs in Malta are refusing to engage with the medico-legal consequences of the Andrea Prudente affair, who had to be airlifted to Spain after being denied abortion in Malta, despite have an unviable pregnancy

Jay Weeldreyer and Andrea Prudente at Mater Dei Hospital
Jay Weeldreyer and Andrea Prudente at Mater Dei Hospital

Women MPs in Malta are refusing to engage with the medico-legal consequences of the Prudente affair, where the island’s abortion ban prevented doctors from terminating a miscarried pregnancy because the foetus’s heartbeat could still be detected.

Malta’s blanket ban on abortion came under the scrutiny of the world press, but MPs remain silent on the case after American tourist Andrea Prudente managed to be discharged from Mater Dei Hospital to be airlifted to Spain, where she obtained a termination.

Prudente and her partner Jay Weeldreyer were holidaying in Gozo when she miscarried her daughter. Despite having no chance of survival after her waters broke prematurely at 16 weeks, voiding the womb of amniotic fluid and giving no chance of survival for the foetus doctors refused a termination due to a persisting heartbeat.

“Her breathing is soft and easy, restful, unlike recent days,” Weeldreyer told MaltaToday from Spain, as the couple had to process the whirlwind of panic, confusion and media coverage they were swept up in.

With only a few voices from the political parties declaring outrage over Malta’s abortion ban, the deafening silence of MPs reveals the taboo that abortion represents for politicians.

The Nationalist MPs Graziella Galea, Graziella Attard Previ and Bernice Bonello said the PN “fully trusts medical professionals” and that the Prudente case had been treated in the best possible way by doctors who constantly monitored the mother while waiting for the body to naturally miscarry the 16-week foetus despite being declared as having no chance of survival.

READ ALSO: ‘Why is Mater Dei putting my lost daughter above my partner’s life?’

Labour MP Katya DeGiovanni and Cressida Galea reiterated Labour’s cautious position on abortion, last publicised when Marlene Farrugia tabled her private member’s bill for decriminalisation, calling only for “the need for a mature and responsible discussion.”

Labour’s women’s branch Nisa Laburisti president Nikita Zammit Alamango however said that where a scientific conclusion shows that a pregnancy is not viable anymore, the parent’s wishes should be carried out accordingly.

“That said, I do not blame local medical practitioners since their hands are tied by the current legislation. Therefore, the State should urgently start the process of considering the termination of pregnancies on medical grounds. We also cannot ignore the psychological effects and trauma for the mother in these circumstances.”

On the other hand, her MNPN counterpart Francine Farrugia, echoing the PN’s stance, insisted that life should be protected from conception to death. “The media is what it is,” she said, complaining about what she said was a sensationalised case. “We must focus on sex education and women’s health,” Farrugia said, who seemingly confused the issue with Malta’s foreign population as having to respect Malta’s apparent “pro-life and Christian... laws and policies.”

There were no comments from Labour MPs Davina Sammut Hili, Romilda Baldacchino, Amanda Spiteri and Nationalist MPs Eve Borg Bonello, Paula Mifsud Bonnici, Julie Zahra, Claudette Buttigieg.

The PN’s head of research, lawyer Martina Caruana, was undoubtedly the most eloquent of voices from the political arena, calling on MPs to legislate instead of dropping soundbites or grandstanding on social media.

“I am sick and tired of MPs throwing up their hands and saying ‘someone should do something!’ Flash news: it’s you. Your job is literally to do something. What is so difficult about doing the job you were elected to do? If you don’t know that a legislator’s job is to legislate, perhaps you shouldn’t have run to be one. Our elected officials are not supposed to be elected preachers or prayer warriors.”

Caruana called for an end to rhetoric and said MPs should b speaking up about the Prudente case. “I care about you acting on a woman’s life being put into jeopardy by sadistic and primitive laws. I care about you caring about women’s lives. I care about you acknowledging that saving a mother is against the law, with doctors facing four years in prison and a revocation of their license if they actually do prioritise her life. I care about you acknowledging that women have heartbeats too. We have a life worth living too.”

READ ALSO | Legislators are there to legislate: not pontificate