A 16-week pregnant woman, who is going through a miscarriage and runs the risk of infection, fears for her life after doctors at Mater Dei Hospital are refusing to terminate her pregnancy after her waters broke prematurely about a week ago.
The woman, a US citizen, is waiting for insurance clearance to be able to be evacuated out of Malta to another country, possibly the UK, where her pregnancy can be terminated.
“The patient has requested termination of pregnancy, but her request was denied," pro-choice NGO Doctors for Choice Malta wrote in a Facebook post.
"She was told doctors can only intervene if she is imminently dying – not even getting an infection is enough. She was also told doctors cannot even discuss the option of abortion with her. The patient is now being forced to watch and wait at Mater Dei, putting her life at risk. The family is rightly distraught and desperate for a solution,”
Malta is the only EU country that has a total ban on abortion, and human rights organisations have spent years calling for a debate on abortion, the lack of which had surprised former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks in 2017.
Last year independent MP Marlene Farrugia tabled a private members' bill proposing decriminalisation of abortion but fellow MPs shot it down.
The pro-life movement argues that human life begins at conception so the abortion ban is necessary to protect the right to life of the unborn child.
Gynecologist Isabel Stabile, who is a Doctors for Choice member, confirmed to Times of Malta that she has seen the medical records of the woman.
“Her waters broke about a week ago and there is practically no amniotic fluid left which make the chances of survival of the foetus very low… She is waiting for the foetus to die,” she said.
The woman, who is on holiday in Malta with her partner, went to the Gozo hospital and was later admitted to Mater Dei Hospital after suffering what seemed like a miscarriage, with heavy bleeding followed by breaking waters, the NGO said.
“An ultrasound showed ruptured membranes (broken waters) and a detaching placenta. However, the foetus still has a heartbeat. International obstetric guidelines state that in such cases where the foetus is not yet viable (before 24 weeks), termination of pregnancy (ie: abortion) should be offered to avoid the risk of maternal infection and death. Infection can go through the ruptured membranes, into the uterus, then into the blood leading to death.
“They want their story made public in the hope of avoiding a tragedy. We hope common sense prevails and this woman is allowed to have a termination before it is too late. We have also heard from Maltese women who were in similar situations but were scared to speak out. This is not right. Women have beating hearts too,” Doctors for Choice wrote.
The case echoes a previous case of Maltese Canadian Marion Mifsud Mora, whose waters broke when she was 17 weeks pregnant while she was on holiday in the country in 2014.
Her Canadian health insurance paid for her to be airlifted to France for the procedure.
Times of Malta has contacted the health authorities for a response.