Health Minister shoots down suggestion to remove mental health from abortion amendment

Health Minister insists abortion will remain illegal • Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina urges Labour MPs to vote against the reform he dubbed 'abortion by stealth'

Health Minister Chris Fearne insisted that abortion will remain illegal as he kicked off the second reading of a legal reform that will allow the termination of pregnancy when the mother’s health or life is in danger.

“This amendment is in favour of life,” he said as he opened the session in Parliament on Monday.

Fearne recalled that he asked the State Advocate to review local laws and identify if there are any areas that could inhibit doctors from carrying out their work.

When the State Advocate reported such areas, it pointed to cases when health professionals and pregnant people could face prison time for terminating a pregnancy, regardless of the reasons for termination.

“Terminating a pregnancy will remain illegal, but saving a life will not be,” Fearne said. “Whoever is against this bill is fine with allowing a mother to die.”

The minister insisted heavily that abortion will remain illegal, while dismissing suggestions that this law could open the door to legalise abortion in full at a future stage.

Instead, he claimed that the bill will make it more difficult for abortion to be made legal in Malta.

Fearne added that government is open to suggestions on bettering the wording of the legislation. However, he shot down suggestions to remove ‘mental health’ as a reason to terminate an abortion.

“Let’s go beyond the idea that someone with physical illness has a serious problem, but someone with a mental illness can get out of it.”

He said that a woman suffering from a mental illness deserves to take treatment without worrying that she could go to prison. “The law needs to be inclusive for everyone.”

“With this amendment, between saving the life of a mother and not saving her life, we’re choosing to save her life.”

PN MP: Andrea Prudente’s life was not in danger

Nationalist MP Karol Aquilina claimed in the Opposition’s rebuttal that Andrea Prudente, a woman who was denied an abortion in Malta despite being told her pregnancy was not viable, did not have her life at risk.

Speaking in parliament, Aquilina said that Prudente did not appear to have her life in physical danger, at least not in the photo she uploaded of herself in an airplane being taken to Spain to terminate her pregnancy.

He continued to claim that a woman who is mentally or physically unwell, but is still fit to give birth, should not be allowed to terminate the pregnancy.

Aquilina said the focus should be on saving the foetus, specifically when there’s no threat to the life of the foetus.

He added that the legal amendment is a precursor to the full legalisation of abortion in Malta, dubbing the reform 'abortion by stealth'. 

“The choice is clear: do we want abortion introduced in our country? The answer is no.”

He went on to urge Labour MPs to break ranks and speak out in their parliamentary group to voice their own opinions on the reform, possibly by voting against the legal amendments. "Find the courage to bring this issue on the agenda of your parliamentary group."