We’ve heard the court testimony of the Mater Dei medics who took care of Andrea Prudente, whose case Robert Abela invokes to justify the amendment to the anti-abortion law. The case isn’t over but what conclusions can we draw so far?

In general, that the prime minister has some hard questions to answer. He should stop hiding behind his bluster. But there’s additional evidence that Prudente was shabbily treated in parliament and continues to be in the social media.

Four consultants testified to say Prudente was never in danger of dying, in spite of complications.

As for the foetus she was carrying, Alberto Vella, her consultant, said “you never know what is going to happen” in the condition that Prudente was in. But the statistics suggest an almost 80 per cent chance of survival, according to Yves Muscat Baron, the consultant head of obstetrics and gynaecology.

This statistic is in direct contradiction to what has been claimed by Andrea Dibben (in a Times of Malta debate with Peppi Azzopardi), so we must wait to see if this testimony is challenged in court by another specialist. 

Prudente’s treatment was decided unanimously in a case conference with another two senior consultants. She was administered antibiotics while her pulse, temperature, blood pressure and blood were checked regularly – indeed, more frequently than usual.

In a similar case, a patient had managed to carry her baby for another three months before she gave birth to what is now a “healthy baby”.

But because there was a (statistical) 20 per cent chance the baby might not make it, Prudente and her partner had two sessions with a bereavement midwife – all part of routine care.

The questions for Abela arise by themselves. He can’t just evade them.

First, does he accept this account or does he expect conflicting testimony to emerge in court?

Abela says we need a new law so that the Prudente case isn’t repeated. What is it that he doesn’t want to see repeated?

Because, to go by Friday’s testimony, our doctors gave Prudente high-quality care, went the extra mile and were never in serious doubt about their legal position.

Second, if Abela accepts the testimony as factual, would Prudente even have qualified for a termination of pregnancy under the law he says he wants to pass?

Abela tells us the new law would not apply to viable pregnancies. At the time that Prudente wanted a termination, her daughter’s life chances were unclear. It doesn’t sound like Prudente could have had a termination when she asked for one, even if Abela’s law had been in place.

Or is Abela saying that, under his law, doctors could terminate a pregnancy even when there is an 80 per cent chance of survival?

Third, if Abela contends that Prudente would have qualified for a termination under his new law, how is terminating a pregnancy where the foetus has 4-to-1 odds of survival not an abortion?

If Abela insists his law won’t legalise abortion, where is he getting his definition from? If he simply insists that words mean whatever he wants them to mean, and we just have to lump it, he’s basically declaring himself unaccountable to us.

Abela’s critics have pounced on the testimony concerning Prudente’s daughter. They’ve been far more callous in ignoring what Prudente’s consultant and bereavement midwife, Sandra Castillo, have said about the mother’s state of mind.

There is no inconsistency in being anti-abortion and showing empathy for Prudente- Ranier Fsadni

Instead, the critics have gone chasing after red herrings, with such venom and lack of compassion that they undermine the very case – for a “culture of life” – they want to make.

The first red herring concerns the role of Isabel Stabile, a pro-choice activist who, pretty early, got to know about Prudente’s case and informed her doctor that his patient was “in danger” and that, therefore, he knew what he had to do.

Despite all the insinuations, there’s nothing nefarious going on here. It’s the job of an activist to be alert to cases that are of core concern. Stabile may have overhyped the danger but she didn’t disrupt the system.

Had the four consultants agreed that Prudente was in danger, they’d also have agreed with Stabile on what had to be done. But they didn’t and they relied on their own judgement. The system worked as it should.

If the incident teaches us anything, it’s that the media initially took Prudente’s understanding of her case at face value, whereas it should have been treated as just one part of the story.

But to move from there to pouring doubt about Prudente’s motives, honesty and character is to step over the line between decency and crassness.

For Bernard Grech, it was to be politically irresponsible. He should know that the lead he gave, when he mocked her decision-making, would be taken by others as licence to say far worse. A politician should never put a target on an ordinary person’s back.

Grech says he stuck to the facts in parliament. No, he omitted two key facts. A babymoon is an institution in the US, which can easily be verified by googling it. It’s so much of an institution that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has given advice on when best to go on a babymoon – and Prudente followed it.

Her critics are now poring over her medical details, calling into question her decision to travel. Another red herring.

Suppose Prudente did lack good sense: it demonstrates nothing of essence, which boils down to what counts as proper medical care. Do mistakes disqualify you from proper medical care? And what about the expectant mother, in Prudente’s same condition, but who committed no mistakes?

There is no inconsistency in being anti-abortion and showing empathy for Prudente. The medics closest to her, Vella and Castillo, both testified to a woman who was conflicted, with a history of disturbing anxiety and a fear of its return.

It’s also clear she believed her daughter – which is how she continues to refer to her – had no chance of survival. And she felt vulnerable, alone, in a foreign hospital. Who knows, perhaps her head was swirling with horror media stories of women who had died, in foreign hospitals, because denied an abortion.

Demonising such a woman, instead of reassuring her of our empathy, is a dubious way of persuading the young women who are observing the spectacle that they can count on Malta’s social solidarity should they ever need it.


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