135 doctors sign legal protest against abortion ban

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135 doctors in Malta have signed a legal protest calling for the nation’s blanket abortion ban to be lifted.

The legal protest was filed on Monday morning and comes after Mater Dei Hospital refused to terminate the unviable pregnancy of American tourist Andrea Prudente. She had to be flown to Spain to terminate the pregnancy and avoid the risk of sepsis.

Doctors are calling for Section 243 of the Laws of Malta to be removed so that medical professionals are no longer criminalized when a patient needs to terminate their pregnancy.

The article in question concerns physicians, surgeons, obstetricians or apothecaries who knowingly perform an abortion or prescribe the means by which an abortion may be performed. These health professionals could face a maximum prison sentence of four years and a life ban from practicing their profession.

The protest was lodged against the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, the Parliamentary Secretary for Reform and Equality and the State Solicitor.

In their protest, the doctors said they felt aggrieved that abortion in Malta was not only criminalized against women who had to terminate their pregnancies, but also criminalized doctors.

It is in this regard that the doctors said that the general ban has a direct impact on their work and according to their code of ethics.

“This criminalization not only prohibits women from receiving immediate medical care, but also prohibits Protestants from providing immediate and timely care, and this delay puts the lives and health of pregnant women at risk,” reads legal protest.

The demonstration follows the Prudente affair. Prudente was on holiday in Gozo with her partner and was denied an abortion after suffering a miscarriage. The fetus had no chance of survival after its waters broke prematurely at 16 weeks, emptying the uterus of amniotic fluid. However, since the fetal heartbeat could still be detected, the doctors did not terminate the pregnancy.

In a press statement, Doctors for Life, an anti-abortion lobby group, criticized the legal protest for not calling for a refinement of the law but for its complete scrapping. The group also said doctors who sign the court letter do not automatically see the court letter itself or receive a full explanation of what is being requested.

The legal protest was signed by gynecologist Isabel Stabile and other doctors, comprising a range of specializations, including obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, psychiatry and pediatrics. Among the signatories are also some hospital consultants.

READ ALSO: Prudente Affair – the silence of Malta’s women parliamentarians is deafening

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