[WATCH] PN opposes abortion exception if woman’s health is at risk

The Nationalist Party parliamentary group wants an exception to abortion to be limited only to saving a woman's life and will not support government's Bill proposing the exception be also extended to safeguard a woman's health

The PN will only agree to an exception to Malta's strict anti-abortion law if a woman's life is at risk
The PN will only agree to an exception to Malta's strict anti-abortion law if a woman's life is at risk

Updated at 1:41pm with Labour Party statement

Nationalist MPs will not support government’s proposed legal amendment to allow abortion if a woman’s life and health are at risk.

The parliamentary group is aligning itself with the position adopted by more than 80 academics earlier this week, which asked for a tighter exception limited to when a woman's life is in danger.

In a statement on Thursday, the PN parliamentary group accused Robert Abela of wanting to introduce abortion in Malta. “The PN remains the only political force in favour of life,” the PN said.

The parliamentary group said it agreed with offering legal certainty and protection to pregnant women, babies in the womb and medical professionals when a medical intervention is required when a woman’s life is in “clear danger”. 

The PN said it agreed with the proposal put forward by the academics on how the Criminal Code could be amended without introducing abortion.

“We expect the government to listen to what the PN is saying with the support of academics and professionals,” the parliamentary group said.

Government tabled the First Reading in parliament of an amendment to the criminal code that would exempt doctors and women from criminal liability if a pregnancy is terminated to safeguard a woman’s life or health.

The existing law criminalises abortion with no exception and doctors risk going to prison and losing their warrant. Women who undergo an abortion also risk jail time.

Malta is the only country in the EU where abortion is outlawed without exceptions.

Health Minister Chris Fearne and Justice Minister Jonathan Attard have argued the legal change will give doctors and women peace of mind when a termination is needed to safeguard the health and life of the individual.

READ ALSO: Malta’s strict anti-abortion law to get exception if woman’s health and life are at risk

PL: 'There should be no hindrance to medical care'

Meanwhile, the Labour Party said the legal amendment proposed by the government allows doctors to take the necessary medical decisions to safeguard a woman’s health and her life.

“This amendment trusts medical professionals to make the decisions and is an issue that over the past months was raised by doctors themselves,” the PL said, adding the change will provide peace of mind that no criminal action will be taken against medical professionals and women.

“The Labour Party believes that there should be no hindrance in providing the necessary medical care to the mother. This is a law that will save a woman’s life,” the PL said.

It expressed disappointment at the PN’s decision to oppose this law and Bernard Grech’s decision to simply disseminate a recorded video message without giving journalists the possibility to ask him about his stand.

Academics only want exception if woman’s life is in danger

In a position paper this week, three University of Malta professors - 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 - said the amendment as proposed “opens the door for legal abortion”.

They argued that 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.

“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.

Their position was supported by 81 signatories.