A review of the proposed amendment to the criminal code that will allow for abortions to be carried out in specific circumstances will be published after government consultations with stakeholders end in two weeks, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Friday.
The government has meetings on the amendment with a “wide array” of stakeholders till next week or the one after that, Fearne said in comments to Times of Malta.
“After the meetings, when the amendment goes to the committee stage, we will be publishing what we propose to amend, for the opposition and the general public to see,” he said.
“We are genuinely trying to save women’s lives,” Fearne said.
Earlier on Friday Prime Minister Robert Abela backed up Fearne, saying he will be holding further meetings in the coming week with people who raised concerns over the amendment.
“We will be presenting an amendment to the amendment when the debate continues in parliament,” Abela told journalists.
“We will meet with everyone to understand the main concerns and fears of this amendment and to understand their concerns on how it can be abused.”
He said that the amendment covers a sensitive subject that entails the protection of the mother’s life and health.
Fearne said that the government felt the need to introduce the amendment after 38-year-old Andrea Prudente was denied a request for abortion in Malta after suffering the symptoms of a miscarriage.
Doctors had refused to intervene, waiting for his partner to miscarry naturally, for the baby's heartbeat to stop or "for her to have a life-threatening infection" that would spur them to act, Prudente’s husband later said.
The long-time practice to protect the mother’s life came into question, Fearne said.
Currently, the amendment says no offence shall be committed "when the termination of a pregnancy results from a medical intervention aimed at protecting the health of a pregnant woman suffering from a medical complication which may put her life at risk or health in grave jeopardy".
The inclusion of “health in grave jeopardy” has been the main point of contention among the Nationalist Party and other opponents to the bill, who claim that the wording will lead to the legalization of abortion.
However, on Friday Fearne said that an issue of “health” could for example apply to cancer patients whose health could be in “grave jeopardy".
“I know individual cases, where women got to know they have cancer while they were pregnant," he said.
Should they choose to start treatment before they deliver the law says that she and the doctor responsible can end up in jail, he said.