[WATCH] Robert Abela won’t back down on health principles of abortion amendment

He added that he did not always agree with the position of President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca on past social reforms, including divorce and IVF

Prime Minister Robert Abela remained steadfast on keeping the health of the mother at the centre of an amendment to Malta’s abortion law, which will decriminalise abortion when a woman’s life and health is at danger.  

“We’re talking about two principles. The safeguarding of the health of the mother when she’s in grave danger during pregnancy, as well as the safeguarding of the life of the mother in grave danger. We can’t deviate from this.”

He insisted that in situations where the foetus can be removed safely from and live outside the mother’s womb, then that foetus should be saved.

“The medical community says very clearly that, after 24 weeks, a fetus can be birthed and can live independently. If we’re talking about a pregnancy in the seventh month or ninth month, then there’s no doubt that the foetus should be birthed.”

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On Monday, Abela was asked about the position of President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, who spoke at an anti-abortion march on Sunday against the amendments.

He admitted that he has not always agreed with her positions on certain social reforms.

“If you ask me if I agree with the position she took against divorce in 2011, I’d say I do not agree with it. If you ask me if I agree on the position she took during her presidency on the reforms we were doing as a government on IVF, I’d say I don’t agree. But I always do it with respect.”

“I understand her position and I have no doubt she has genuine intentions. However, our main duty as a government is to legislate in favour of the life and the health of at least one mother who could have her life or health in danger due to medical complications during pregnancy.”

‘Doctors hold different opinions’

Around 450 doctors supported a petition being circulated urging government to specify physical health in its amendment, so that mental health issues cannot be considered when terminating an unsafe pregnancy.

However, Abela pointed out that there are 2,500 registered doctors in Malta and Gozo.

“Other doctors last summer brought a judicial protest saying we’re doing nothing in this area, meaning they hold a different opinion.”

Abela said that he’s open to discussions on how government can assure that the two principles are not abused.

“This means that the interpretation of grave health is not widened more than is already clear in our intention.”

He added that he’s also met with President George Vella since the amendment was tabled, with no bad blood between them.

‘It’s not abortion reform’

Abela insisted that the amendment being proposed is not a reform of Malta’s abortion laws.

“It’s not an abortion reform. It’s a single amendment […] with one exception when there’s danger to the life, or grievous risk to the health, of the mother carrying the baby – or foetus rather.”

He said that doctors have been prioritising the life of the mother when complications arise for decades, but the law offers no comfort. Each doctor, and mother, could be prosecuted for this under the current law.

“We tabled this amendment from which only a small number of doctors and prospective mothers will benefit from. Hopefully no one benefits from it because that means a mother’s health is at risk.”

He continued that the amendment is not an attempt to legalise abortion in Malta. “What we’re doing is protecting the health of the woman when she’s in grave danger during pregnancy and protecting her life from being in danger.”