Representatives of a pro-life coalition on Wednesday had a meeting with the prime minister during which they explained how a bill currently before parliament is seen as allowing abortion.
The bill was moved in parliament late last year but its progress was stalled after the second reading stage, with the government promising to introduce amendments to address public concerns. Times of Malta had reported that President George Vella was considering stepping down unless the wording of the bill was amended. He has since repeatedly called for agreement by all sides.
The bill provides that doctors and mothers will not be liable for criminal prosecution "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 her health in grave jeopardy."
The representatives of the Inti Tista’ Ssalvani coalition were Miriam Sciberras and (former finance minister) Tonio Fenech from Life Network Foundation, Konrad Borg, Daniel Farrugia and Helga Consiglio from Doctors for Life.
Also present for the government were Health Minister Chris Fearne, Justice Minister Jonathan Attard and the Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms and Equality Rebecca Buttigieg.
The coalition said it is not opposed to improving the current law to provide more clarity and protection to doctors and women who face life-threatening complications during pregnancy and who need medical intervention that could endanger the baby's life.
On Friday Fearne said that an amended version of the bill would be published after government consultations with stakeholders end in two weeks' time. He said the government is having meetings with a “wide array” of stakeholders.
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 legalisation of abortion.
On Friday Fearne said that a health issue 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.