The government is to amend the law to “protect doctors and women from prosecution” if they decide to terminate a pregnancy to safeguard the mother’s life, Prime Minister Robert Abela has said.

In his first interview with Times of Malta since he became prime minister almost three years ago, Abela said the new law has already been discussed in cabinet and will be tabled in parliament in the next two weeks.

The prime minister replying to questions about abortion.

He said the change was triggered after Malta was put under the international spotlight last June, when an American tourist, Andrea Prudente, was denied a request to terminate a non-viable pregnancy while on holiday in Malta and had to be airlifted to a Spanish hospital to have an abortion.

Malta has among the strictest abortion laws in the world.

“We discovered that there’s a long-standing practice at Mater Dei that goes back decades. In cases where the mother’s life is at risk, clinicians decide among themselves to terminate. But there are questions about the legality of that,” Abela explained during the interview.“

So we discussed with our health department and they’ve presented a legal amendment that states that when there are medical complications during a pregnancy and the mother’s life is at risk, doctors can terminate a pregnancy to safeguard the mother’s life without the risk of legal prosecution. Of course, the mother will also be protected from prosecution.”

Abela insisted that the amendments have “absolutely nothing to do with decriminalising abortion” but insisted that the country cannot keep closing its eyes to the hundreds of Maltese women who are already terminating their pregnancies every day by swallowing abortion pills.

In the interview, Abela speaks about a number of issues including corruption, unbridled construction,  Joseph Muscat and hate comments towards Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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