A US couple who was denied a request to terminate a non-viable pregnancy while holidaying in Malta and had to be airlifted to Spain intends to sue the Maltese government for “the heartbreaking ordeal” it had to go through.

“Once we’re home and have dealt with the wreckage, we will take any action available against Malta. This was… inhumane and we want to do what we can to prevent it ever happening again. We intend to sue,” Jay Weeldreyer, 45, told Times of Malta the day after his partner, Andrea Prudente, 38, was discharged from the Spanish hospital where the pregnancy was terminated.

“The idea that some politician will decide based on their belief that miracles are more important than medicine and that women are not deserving of having their lives protected: that might score points but you’re not the one who had to sit there and be told that the hospital is going to compound your losses and potentially send you home with your life destroyed.

“This needs to end,” he added.

Speaking via Zoom from their hotel room in Mallorca, Spain, Prudente said she could not understand why her life was put “at risk for a baby whose life was already lost”.

“Just the loss of a baby is already terrible… and on top of that we had what felt like torture and for nothing. There was nothing ever to be gained. We couldn’t have saved the baby. We would have if we could. Why hang on to this law?”

Malta is the only EU country that has a total ban on abortion in all circumstances. Yesterday, a group of 135 doctors signed a judicial protest asking for a review of the blanket ban following the case of the couple.

Their ordeal made international headlines after Prudente suffered the symptoms of a miscarriage, including heavy bleeding, when she was 16 weeks pregnant.

The couple, who live in the Pacific North West close to Seattle, US, were in Malta for a babymoon at the time.

On June 16 they were told there was no fluid “and the baby is going to die” and were admitted to Mater Dei Hospital where Prudente was kept under observation.

The couple’s request for the pregnancy to be terminated due to the risks of maternal infection was turned down and they remained in hospital for a week.

Infection can go through ruptured membranes, into the uterus, then into the blood leading to death.

But doctors, whose hands are bound by the law, could not terminate the pregnancy, telling Prudente they could only intervene if her life was at imminent risk.

After her travel insurance deemed their case “life-threatening”, they were airlifted to Mallorca. The procedure, which involved a medical termination and labour being induced, was carried out there and the couple were discharged on Sunday.

“Our miscarriage is unbelievably painful. We both held our baby girl in our hands. Andrea had a very painful miscarriage but did not require surgery and did not get injuries or infection,” Weeldreyer said.

He spoke about the “zero compassion” shown by the Maltese healthcare system at their ongoing loss where there was, instead, an “expectation to endure”.

Weeldreyer stressed that this was a wanted pregnancy and a prolonged loss.

“When she was provided with the pill [to terminate the pregnancy] it was heartbreaking. She held the pill and started sobbing and weeping as this was the end of something we really wanted… it was an incredibly emotional experience for the two of us. When we were falling in love Andrea had a dream that we would have a daughter,” he said.

When it was all over, the couple wrote the baby’s name, Claire, on a porcelain star and placed it in the Mallorcan hospital’s maternity ward.

In Malta, the termination of unviable pregnancies where a heartbeat is still detected is delayed until the woman’s life is deemed to be at risk because abortion is illegal under all circumstances.

This is where the principle of ‘double effect’ comes into play. According to this principle, it is sometimes acceptable to cause harm as a side effect of bringing about a good result.

So, a doctor would intervene with the sole intention of saving the mother’s life and the death of the unborn foetus or embryo is considered an undesired consequence of the intervention to save the mother.

The Malta College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have instead said that they have always prioritised the mother’s safety when deciding how to deal with a problematic pregnancy.  

In a statement last week the college said “its members “have always put mothers at the forefront of our care”. 

A spokesperson for the health authorities said they could not comment on the specific case as doing so would be in breach of confidentially.

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