Listening to the pleas of its doctors and citizens, the government of Malta threw out plans Friday to legalize killing unborn babies in abortions.
The small European country protects unborn babies by banning elective abortions, and has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, according to the Times of Malta.
But abortion activists falsely assert that the abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk, and pressured Parliament to pass a bill that would allow abortions for any loosely-defined “health” reason.
This week, the government said the bill will be amended to clarify that abortions only may be done if the mother’s life is at risk, the Malta Independent reports.
The changes involve removing the broad “health” measure from the bill and replacing it with language clarifying that abortions only may be done when the mother’s life is at risk and there are no ways to save both her and her child, Health Minister Chris Fearne said, according to Reuters.
Nationalist Party (PN) leaders celebrated the news as a “victory for life,” saying the new amendment protects women and babies.
Here’s more from the Independent:
The PN said that it had always been consistent in insisting that the country’s laws should offer legal certainty and protection for pregnant women, the baby in the womb and health professionals in such a case where intervention is deemed necessary to save the woman’s life from clear danger. …
The PN insisted that Prime Minister Robert Abela and the Labour Party MPs should declare that they will not be looking to introduce any other amendment to the country’s laws to try and introduce abortion in the country in the future.
Malta is a pro-life country, and the initial bill received widespread opposition, including from the national doctors’ union, nurses and midwives union and President George Vella. Reportedly, Vella said he would resign rather than support the bill.
In December, Martin Balzan, president of the Medical Association of Malta (MAM), said doctors do not support the bill, and they did not ask for changes to the law.
“We agree with the first part about safeguarding a mother’s life, as this is already done in practice, but we are not happy that the text also speaks of interventions leading to the termination of pregnancies to safeguard the mother’s health,” Balzan said. “… Including the mother’s health in the discussion will only bring up more problems, rather than solve them. This is a problem of wording, of interpretation. The text is too vague, and we believe the wording should be completely amended or changed.”
Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela and others who supported the bill said they want to protect doctors and pregnant mothers in cases where her life is at risk. But Balzan said the law already does that, and doctors do not want “anything to do with” legalizing the killing of unborn babies in the country.
Tens of thousands of citizens also protested the bill, including at a rally last fall organized by the Life Network Foundation and other pro-life organizations.
Malta has resisted international pressure to legalize abortion for years. Abortions are illegal in almost all cases in Poland, but Malta is the only European country that fully protects unborn babies from abortion.
Until recently, a number of European countries protected unborn babies by prohibiting abortions. However, Ireland abandoned its pro-life laws in 2018 and Northern Ireland was forced to legalize abortion 2019 by the British Parliament.
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