Rosianne Cutajar pushes back against restrictive abortion law: ‘No woman should risk losing her life’

Rosianne Cutajar is the only MP to speak against Malta’s restrictive abortion law in the wake of Andrea Prudente’s case

Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar
Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar

No Maltese woman should risk losing her life because of Malta’s restrictive abortion law, Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar said, adding women need to have peace of mind. 

With reference to the case of American woman Andrea Prudente who was denied an abortion by Maltese doctors despite having an unviable pregnancy, Cutajar said this served as an eye-opener.

“Andrea Prudente’s case was an eye-opener to those who believe that abortion is done capriciously… abortion is sometimes suggested by doctors for medical reasons like her case,” Cutajar said during an adjournment speech in parliament on Monday.

Reiterating her pro-choice stand, Cutajar broke the deafening silence from Maltese MPs on abortion in the wake of Prudente’s case, which became an international sensation. The only other politician to speak up was Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer.

Malta is the only EU member state with a complete ban on abortion. The law does not make exceptions.

Prudente broke her waters at 16 weeks and although doctors at Mater Dei Hospital told her the pregnancy was not viable they could not carry out an abortion because the foetus still had a heartbeat. Prudente was being treated with antibiotics to minimise the risk of contracting sepsis, a blood infection, that could have put her life in danger.

Eventually, Prudente was airlifted to Spain where her pregnancy was terminated.

Cutajar referred to the judicial protest filed on Monday morning by 135 doctors who have called for the abortion ban to be struck down.

“These doctors know that there are circumstances where an abortion is medically necessary. I am convinced, hand on heart, that no one wants to see a woman lose her life because of Malta’s restrictive abortion law,” she said, warning that Prudente’s case is not unique as she brandished a photo of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian woman in Ireland, who died from sepsis after her request for an abortion was denied on legal grounds.

The Savita case paved the way for the introduction of abortion in Ireland.

“Every woman in Malta has to have her mind at peace that her life will not be put at risk if things do not go as planned. Women’s health must be a priority,” Cutajar said. “No woman should be put in a situation where she can lose her life, or worry that this might happen to her during pregnancy.”

Cutajar called for a discussion on abortion. “Let us have the courage to speak about these subjects not just as women but as Maltese and European citizens.”

But the Labour MP also took a pot shot at European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, accusing her of hypocrisy on the subject.

She was referring to Metsola’s reaction to the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the constitutional right to an abortion. Metsola tweeted last Saturday: “The regression of women's rights in the US, and in other places around the globe, is a worrying trend. The European Parliament will keep standing up for women, equality and liberty.”

Cutajar pounced on Metsola’s apparent double act on abortion. “Where were you just 24 hours before when we had an American woman, who was risking her life because of Malta’s restrictive abortion law? Roberta Metsola plays the conservative card in Malta but adopts a liberal stand when it comes to European and American women.”
Cutajar said she dislikes the silence among politicians in Malta on the Prudente case but was equally taken aback by Metsola’s “hypocrisy”.

“Charity begins at home… if you are so taken aback by what happened in the US, why don’t you check what is happening in your country first,” the Labour MP told Metsola.

The Nationalist Party has etched in its statute the belief that life begins from conception, which makes it against abortion. PN leader Bernard Grech last year had gone on record saying there was no place in the PN for officials who were openly pro-choice.

He later moderated the stand after Metsola embraced the European Parliament’s predominant pro-choice stand when she was elected president by fellow MEPs.