The new amendments to the abortion bill are a step in the right direction, giving a woman’s life the necessary importance, Parliamentary Secretary for reforms said on Monday.

“For the first time, this amendment will provide professionals trying to safeguard the life of a woman who is experiencing complications during her pregnancy, the peace of mind that they are not at risk of going to prison and that their work is actually covered by the law,” Rebecca Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg was speaking during a press conference held at the Labour Party headquarters in Ħamrun.

Last week the government announced significant changes to Bill 28, allowing for the termination of a pregnancy if a woman’s life is at immediate risk or if her health is in “grave jeopardy which may lead to her death”.

The bill says the intervention needs to be approved by a team of three medical professionals, two of whom must be obstetricians or gynaecologists, and can only be carried out in cases where the foetus is not deemed viable.

Video: James Bianchi

While pro-life lobbies praised the amendments, pro-choice lobbies said the changes could lead to a situation “even worse than the status quo”.

Two gynaecologists meanwhile told Times of Malta that the revamped abortion bill would not have made any difference in the case of Andrea Prudente - an American tourist who suffered a rupture membrane while 16 weeks pregnant and on holiday in Malta.

She was denied an abortion locally after doctors told her they could only intervene if her life was at imminent risk. Her pregnancy was medically terminated in Spain.

Having an abortion or helping someone get an abortion is punishable by up to three years in prison.

It was Prudente’s case that promoted Prime Minister Robert Abela to propose a legal amendment to prevent a repeat of the incident.

Reacting to criticism, Buttigieg said on Monday the new amendments will ensure that the life and health of the mother are protected, and at the same time give peace of mind that procedures exclude any possibility of abuse.

“As a woman and a prospective mother, I know my life is protected and safeguarded,” she said.

Buttigieg added it was Prudente's case that led the government to address the “legal vacuum” and ensure the law prevents women from risking their lives or ending up in prison after the trauma they would have faced.

She said she could not comment further on the topic since a court case about the matter was ongoing.

During the press conference, Buttigieg said “I pray to God that no one would need this amendment".

“But even if there is only one woman who, during her pregnancy, is in danger of losing her life or health, we have the obligation to ensure that she and doctors caring for her are protected from criminal proceedings.”

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.