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Malta to consider applying abortion ban after US tourist case – US News News – Report by AFR

Malta’s health minister said Thursday he had ordered a review of the application of the country’s abortion ban after the treatment of a pregnant American tourist made global headlines.

“I’ve asked our staff to look into whether we have parts of our law that prevent our doctors from treating where absolutely necessary,” Chris Fearne told reporters.

It was the first public comment by a Maltese government minister since the case of US tourist Andrea Prudente last week put spotlight on Malta’s total redundancy ban.

She suffered a partial miscarriage while on vacation and the fetus had no chance of surviving. But because her heart was still beating, she was denied an abortion despite fears she might contract a life-threatening infection.

In the end, she and her partner flew to Spain, where Prudente received an abortion, but not before the case sparked global headlines and protests in Malta, the only EU country with an outright ban.

Her partner Jay Weeldreyer told AFP that the doctors were “playing chicken” with her life.

“Certainly there should be no part of Maltese law that prevents or impedes our doctors and professionals from saving lives,” said Fearne, who was a former surgeon when asked about the case.

“That is clear and I have asked our technical and legal staff to examine whether this is the case for Maltese law as a whole.”

Currently, doctors who perform abortions can be sentenced to up to four years in prison and a lifetime ban from practicing their profession.

“I have received assurances from the State Advocate (Malta’s highest legal officer) that in cases like this they will not take any action against healthcare professionals who are treating and doing their utmost to save lives,” Fearne said.

He added, “This is not an isolated incident … it has happened before and it will happen again.”

However, there was no indication from his comments that the review would lead to changes in the law.

Abortion is a sensitive issue in Catholic-majority Malta and is rarely discussed among politicians.

Only one of Malta’s 79 MPs – Rosianne Cutajar, a backbench in the ruling Labor party – has spoken out on the case, telling Parliament this week that no woman should risk losing her life over abortion law in Malta.

More than 130 doctors in Malta filed legal protests against the abortion ban on Monday, warning it is an obstacle to adequate medical care.

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