Three UK parliamentarians and a number of members of the UK's House of Lords have written an open letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela to express "extreme concern" about proposed changes to Malta's abortion laws.

The letter was sent to Abela after the government unveiled legislative amendments that would allow doctors to terminate a pregnancy when a woman’s life or health is at serious risk. 

The proposed changes come after an American tourist whose request to terminate a non-viable pregnancy was refused by health authorities. Andrea Prudente was 16 weeks pregnant when in June she began bleeding profusely while on holiday in Malta and was told by doctors that the pregnancy was no longer viable. She was then transferred to Spain where an abortion was carried out.

"We write to you as a group of Members from both Houses of the UK Parliament to express extreme concern about the proposed changes to abortion legislation in Malta which have been announced this week," the group, composed of three Conservative MPs and 16 lords said.

Britain's parliament is made up of 650 MPs and 758 members of the House of Lords. 

The group's concerns

They noted that the government has stated that it simply wants to introduce a small and perfectly reasonable change to legislation that will only codify into law the current practice in Malta of applying the principle of double effect, permitting the ending of a life of an unborn child if it is done to save the life of a mother.

"Instead, the proposed amendment includes legalising abortion to protect the health of a pregnant woman who has medical complications that 'could' put her 'health in serious danger'.

"We write because of our own experience with such wording in the UK. In 1967 our Parliament passed the Abortion Act and included very similar language around abortion being permitted where there is ‘risk of injury’ to health," the MPs and lords said.

While this appeared to parliamentarians at the time to be "narrowly drafted to permit abortion in only very limited circumstances", the inclusion of this provision has, in practice, allowed for abortion on demand to occur in the UK, they said.

According to the group, in 2021, more than 200,000 abortions - over 98% - were permitted under this health clause.

The vast majority of the over ten million abortions that have occurred in the UK since the introduction of the Abortion Act have been allowed under this same health clause in the law, the went on.

"This is not just our experience in the UK. Globally, a number of other jurisdictions have included similar health provisions in their abortion legislation and which have led to abortions on demand, in very high numbers in those jurisdictions.

"We felt it proper to share these experiences with you and to express our anxiety that, in its current form, the proposed wording of the amendment currently before you will also introduce abortion on demand, opening the floodgates to abortion in Malta," they told Abela.

They also called on the prime minister to "re-examine" the draft legislation ahead of bringing it forward to parliament so that it is "narrowly drafted to accord with [his] commendable commitment to protect women and simultaneously prevent abortion on demand".

The letter was signed by Lord Alton of Liverpool, Baroness Hollins, Lord Morrow, Martin Vickers MP, Lord McCrea of Magherafelt & Cookstown, Baroness O’Loan, Fiona Bruce MP, Bob Blackman MP, Lord Farmer, Baroness Cox, Lord McColl of Dulwich, Lord Carey, Lord Loomba CBE, Baroness Prashar, Lord Hylton, Lord Hay of Ballyore, Baroness Stroud, Lord Bishop of Carlisle, The Earl of Dundee, Lord Curry.

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