President Emeritus urges national unity in pro-life march against abortion ban reform

Thousands march through Valletta to voice their anger over a legal amendment allowing doctors to terminate pregnancies when the mother's life and health is at risk

President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca urged for national unity during a pro-life march through Valletta against a planned reform of Malta's blanket ban on abortion.

Thousands of demonstators gathered in Valletta to voice their anger over legal amendments that will allow for the termination of pregnancy if done to save the life and health of the mother.

Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday

“We need to rise above party politics and have a mature, ethical and respectable discussion,” she said. 

Coleiro Preca insisted that people do not have all the correct information to discuss the amendment. She went on to list several areas of Malta’s sexual health services that need improvement, including strengthening Malta’s GU clinic while investing in perinatal health. 

“I always felt proud in every forum, in Malta and abroad, that we still practice the right to life as a public,” she said.

Protestors gathered in front of Castille, the Office of the Prime Minister, at 3pm today as a show of force against the government's planned abortion reform. They marched towards the law courts in Valletta, packing the entire Republic Street right from the Wembley Store on South Street. Although no official count is available, the demonstrators could have been well over 3,000.

Among the attendees were: River of Love pastor Gordon Manche; Raymond Ambrogio, a former police officer who led the BLM picket in June 2020; social media personality 'Terry ta' Bormla'; and Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

River of Love pastor Gordon Manche, looking down, spotted at the pro-life protest (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
River of Love pastor Gordon Manche, looking down, spotted at the pro-life protest (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Coleiro Preca was joined on stage by her husband Edgar as she addressed the crowd in Valletta on Sunday. “Edgar and I believe that life is a fundamental right for everyone. We believe the right to life is supreme, both for the born and for those yet to be born.”

She said the amendment as proposed does not give her the peace of mind that abortion will not be introduced further fown the line in Malta.

“Our laws on issues so sensitive and ethical need to be clear, not let open for any interpretation, even on abortion.”

She said her personal qualm with the amendment is not when the women’s life is at risk, but rather that the proposed amendment encompasses a wide definition of health.

Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday

“Why did the political leaders of this country, and government, include situations when a woman is of bad health but not at risk of life?”

She added that she felt she could not be an activist in favour of children’s rights “when we don’t even give them the opportunity to be born”. Instead, Coleiro Preca insisted on national reflection to understand what MPs are seeking to legislate in parliament.

“My last appeal is to keep this moment as a mature and ethical moment of national unity and not partisan division.”

Irish MP urges Malta not to repeat Ireland’s steps

A video message from Independent Irish MP Carol Nolan was played out during the protest. In her message, Nolan urged the crowd to not let Malta go down Ireland’s route.

“I urge you in Malta to safeguard the lives of mothers and babies and make sure this legislation does not come into effect.”

She claimed that 20,000 babies in Ireland lost their lives since the country introduced abortion. She added that Ireland, like Malta, had the lowest rate of maternal mortality before the law was introduced.

Giovanni Bonello: The law is enough as is

In a video message played to the crowd, former judge Giovanni Bonello made two observations on the proposed amendment.

He said that the law as it is written now serves as enough protection for mothers and medical professionals.

Indeed, he described the proposed amendment as “extra”.

“In 150 years, no doctor, nurse, pharmacist or pregnant woman was ever prosecuted,” he said.

Bonello added that the proposed amendment “opens the doors wide open for abortion on demand”.

He claimed that any woman would be able to get an abortion by saying that the pregnancy is worrying her or that she’s scared of the pain of childbirth.   

Tonio Borg want academics’ proposal

Another video message by Tonio Borg was played during the march. He called for government to take on the proposal by academics for mental health to be excluded from the amendment.

Referring to the UK’s abortion legislation, he said “every three minutes, a child dies in the womb because of mental health”.

He was not the only speaker to call on government to adopt the academics’ proposal. George Buttigieg, an obstetrics and gynecology consultant, said that the law as proposed by governments puts all children’s lives at risk.

“If we look at the emandment from the academics, there’s protection for the mother and the child.”

Life Network CEO: A runway towards abortion

Miriam Sciberras, CEO of Life Network Malta Foundation, said that the amendment being proposed is “a runway wide open to abortion”.

“Abortion kills. Let’s not elude ourselves.”

She pointed out that the amendment was being introduced right before the Christmas period, “on the eve of a holiday for family and life”.

Life Network Malta CEO Miriam Sciberras (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Life Network Malta CEO Miriam Sciberras (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

“In a time of light and life, we’re bringing darkness and death,” she said.

Sciberras said that the Foundation is in favour of protecting doctors, “but we also agree that whenver the life of a baby is at risk, that it is saved”.

“Where’s the baby in the legal amendment?” she questioned.

She pointed out that doctors and nurses have also questioned this amendment. “The vague words offer no certainty, let alone peace of mind.”

On the mental health aspect, she insisted that there is no mental health treatment available today that could lead to the termination of a pregnancy.

Sciberras said that the Foundation wrote to the Prime Minister and asked for them to gather round and discuss the amendment together.

“We appealed to sit at a table to have a serious amendment that puts everyone’s mind at rest and protects professionals that work to protect pregnant women but also take care of the baby in the womb.”

Sciberras was also highly sceptical of government’s “rush” to pass the bill, which she suggested was down to government’s pending court case on Malta’s abortion law.

Andrea Prudente, an American woman who was refused an abortion in Malta despite the pregnancy being unviable and potentially life threatening, filed a consitutional case against the Health Minister over Malta’s blanket ban on pregnancy terminations.

Her plight made international headlines last June, after doctors at Mater Dei Hospital refused to terminate the pregnancy, for legal reasons, because the foetus still had a heartbeat, despite the woman having lost all amniotic fluid and the placenta being detached.

Sciberras claimed that Prudente “never had her life at risk, and doctors took care of her”. She also said that Malta should not give in to international pressure on its abortion legislation.

“Today we have laws that protect the environment, animals, even turtle eggs. And that’s good. But aren’t children in the womb deserving of protection too?”

She added that partisan politics should not get in the way of this discussion, and pointed out that government has no electoral mandate to introduce abortion in Malta.

“We expect government to stop and discuss with us. We’re the voice of the child in the womb.”

Doctors for Life: Abortion not needed to save women’s lives

Nicola Micallef Stafrace, a member of Doctors for Life, said that she agreed with the ‘original’ amendment as it reflects what happens by doctors in practice.

“We never had a case when a mother lost her life because of a pregnancy or birth,” she said.

However, she said that the risk was in including mental health treatment as a valid reason for pregnancy termination.

But she still insisted that she doesn’t want to play down mental health struggles, “but not by sacrificing a pregnancy”.

“A woman in crisis deserves the material, social and psychological support needed to overcome the challenges, but we should not offer abortion as if it’s some magical wand.”

Veronica Bartolo, also a member of Doctors for Life, said that the right to life applies to everyone, including to fetuses.

“Suffering and pain should be limited, but not when the price is the loss of a human life,” she said.

“I believe there are mothers who carry out an abortion and think of the child they could have had. To them, I’m sorry if as a society we didn’t help you enough and you didn’t find the support you needed,” she continued.

“And to those mothers in crisis during pregnancy, find help from someone who can help you and the life inside you.”

Vigil next Wednesday

Life Network Malta will be holding a vigil next Wednesday outside Parliament for “babies that will be lost after this amendment is introduced”.

The vigil will be held at 6pm. The public is invited to attend and bring red candles.