Miércoles, 28 de junio, 2023

The Maltese authorities’ decision to water down a version of a bill aimed at partially decriminalizing abortion in cases of grave risk to the life or health of pregnant people will endanger lives, Amnesty International said following the bills’ adoption by parliament.

Under the new law passed today, a doctor may terminate a pregnancy if the person’s life is at immediate risk and before ‘foetal viability’. In addition doctors will be required to refer pregnant people, whose health is in grave jeopardy which may led to death, to a three-doctor medical panel before they are granted access to an abortion. Cases of grave risk to health that are ‘not life-threatening’ are excluded from the decriminalization bill. 

“It is deeply disappointing that the government has chosen to backtrack from last year’s initial proposal to decriminalize abortion on health grounds. This reckless bill is a U-turn that fails to protect pregnant people’s health and lives,” said Elisa De Pieri, Amnesty International’s Europe Researcher.

“Requiring the approval of three specialists before access to an abortion is granted could result in fatal delays and could also discourage doctors from putting forward the case which could also have fatal consequences.”

In November, the government proposed an amendment to the Criminal Code (Bill 28) aimed at freeing doctors and pregnant people from the threat of criminal prosecution ‘when the termination of a pregnancy is carried out to protect the life or health of a pregnant woman from grave jeopardy’. Under the revised bill, abortion in all other circumstances will remain illegal, flying in the face of Malta’s international human rights law obligations and violating human rights.

In June 2022, a US national experiencing a miscarriage was denied an abortion in Malta, despite being at risk of infection and suffering serious mental health consequences, due to the criminalisation of abortion. On Monday, however, a restrictive amendment to the original proposal for decriminalisation was tabled and passed at the committee stage, significantly increasing the number of circumstances in which an abortion would remain a criminal offence. 

“While the government has finally recognized that access to abortion services is necessary to save lives, this new law will create dangerous further barriers and delays for pregnant women and people in urgent need of – and with a right to – medical treatment. This missed opportunity for increasing access to abortion will put lives and health at risk,” said Elisa De Pieri. 

“We join with the activists and health organisations in calling for access to safe and legal abortion to be guaranteed for all.”