The controversial abortion bill will clarify that a viable foetus “must be born” as the government will propose two amendments to the bill to highlight this point, Health Minister Chris Fearne said. 

Last month, parliament voted in favour of an amendment that will allow for a pregnancy to be terminated when a woman’s life or health is at serious risk.

The proposed legislation passed the second reading and is now at the committee stage, where further changes can be made.

Fearne told journalists that after a number of discussions with “specialists, mothers and the general public” the government will be clarifying two issues which have been raised that people are “genuinely concerned about”. 

He said the first issue is related to the wording of the amendment and to shut down rumours that abortion will be legalised. 

“We will clarify that if a child can be born and live independently, that child should be protected, be birthed and live,” he said. 

“This is what we mean when we say viability, that if the baby can live outside the womb, it should do so, and we will introduce an amendment to clarify this.” 

The other issue which was raised was that certain doctors could abuse the amendment. 

“We trust our doctors, and if there are doctors who abuse this amendment, they will have to answer to these abuses,” he said.

“We will be proposing amendments in the draft to ensure that we minimise the possibility of abuse,” he said, yet did not elaborate on how. 

“Our intention is to protect lives and ensure that all women receive the best possible care".

The government is proposing an amendment to the Criminal Code, which allows doctors to terminate a pregnancy if a woman’s life is at risk or her health is in grave jeopardy.

Abortion under all other circumstances, including rape and incest, will remain illegal.

The proposed amendment was introduced following the case of US tourist Andrea Prudente, who was denied an abortion after suffering the symptoms of a miscarriage whilst 16 weeks pregnant. 

Doctors told her that the foetus would not survive but that they could not terminate the pregnancy because of Malta's strict anti-abortion laws.

She finally underwent the procedure in a Spanish hospital after her health insurance deemed her situation life-threatening and she was medically evacuated.

The proposal to allow an abortion to take place to protect a woman "suffering from a medical complication which may put her life at risk or her health in grave jeopardy" has sparked a national debate. 

Critics, including the church and the Nationalist party, want to remove the word 'health', allowing a termination only to happen when a woman's life is at risk.  

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