Professors say abortion tweak opens door to terminations on mental health grounds

Academics say abortion amendment must limit termination of pregancy only when physical illness threatens loss of mother’s life

Three University of Malta professors are leading a push by academics to include legal safeguards in a new amendment to the crime of abortion, to remove liability for doctors who carry out terminations when the mother’s life is in danger.

The authors are the former Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Malta, Mgr Prof. Emmanuel Agius, professor of obstetrics Charles Savona Ventura, and former Dean of the Faculty of Laws, Prof. Kevin Aquilina.

The three academics said the amendment as proposed “opens the door for legal abortion” because the proposed law does not only speak of instances where the woman is at risk of dying, but also adds the words “or her health in grave jeopardy”.

They said this would also open the door for doctors to carry out terminations if they deemed a pregnancy endangers the mother’s mental health.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations declared that the word ‘health’ also means mental health. Therefore, with the Government’s amendment, a pregnancy can be terminated, not just in cases where the woman’s life is at risk, but also in cases of mental health conditions. This means abortion will be allowed if a woman is going through serious mental conditions, none of which should ever justify the sacrifice of a baby’s life,” they said.

The three academics said the amendment should be worded in such a way that only when “a real and substantial risk of loss of the mother’s life from a physical illness” is present, such a termination can take place.

The three academics said they will be publishing a paper detailing the rationale behind their proposed amendment, with a full list of professionals who are objecting to the amendment.