Abortion opponents satisfied: Malta only allows abortions if life is at risk

Anti-abortionists happy
Malta only allows abortion if it is life-threatening

Malta is the only EU country to completely ban abortion. That should change now – at least when the pregnant woman is in mortal danger. Human rights activists condemn the new law as “cowardly and disrespectful” and warn of fatal consequences.

The parliament in Malta has passed a law that allows limited abortions in the EU country for the first time after the previous complete ban. The law was passed unanimously by parliamentarians. After fierce criticism of the first draft by the Catholic Church and the opposition, the updated legal text makes it clear that a woman may have an abortion – but only if her life is in danger.

If there is no immediate danger for the woman, a team of three doctors decides whether an abortion is permissible, according to the new draft law. In addition, according to the new law, an abortion can only take place if the fetus is not viable and all other recognized medical methods have been exhausted. In all other cases, abortion remains illegal. So far in Malta, women who get abortions face up to three years in prison, while doctors who help them can face up to four years in prison.

Anti-abortion advocates welcomed the last-minute amendment to the law. Activists, on the other hand, lamented a missed opportunity for real reform. The law is “cowardly, disrespectful and dangerous” and purely “symbolic,” said activist Maria Pisani. It will only serve to “oppress the weakest in society”.

The human rights organization Amnesty International called the law in its current form “deeply disappointing” and called for access to safe and legal abortions for all. According to the European researcher Elisa De Pieri, the required approval of three doctors could “lead to fatal delays”.

The trigger for the change in law was a sensational case involving a US tourist who had brought the strict laws in the only EU country that completely bans abortions into focus. The pregnant woman and her partner were vacationing on the Mediterranean island when her waters burst after heavy bleeding. According to the doctors, the fetus had no chance of survival, but due to the country’s ban on abortion, they refused to intervene – despite the danger to the mother’s life. The woman was then taken to Spain. The case made international headlines.

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