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Large demos in Malta as parliament debates ‘abortion law’

A large picture of an unborn baby was placed outside the office of Malta’s prime minister on Sunday as demonstrators called on the government to halt plans to amend the country’s strict anti-abortion laws.

December 5, 2022
5 December 2022

VALLETTA, Dec 4 (Reuters) – A large picture of an unborn
baby was placed outside the office of Malta’s prime minister on
Sunday as demonstrators called on the government to halt plans
to amend the country’s strict anti-abortion laws.

The protest, the biggest in years, attracted several
thousand people including Malta’s top Catholic bishop and the
leader of the conservative opposition, but was led by a former
centre-left president, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca.

“We are here to be the voice of the unborn child,” said
19-year-old university student Maria Formosa, one of the
speakers at the rally. “Through abortion, life is always lost.”

Traditionally Catholic Malta is the only member of the
European Union which bans abortion in all circumstances, even
when a woman’s life or health is endangered by her pregnancy.

Last week, Health Minister Chris Fearne presented an
amendment in parliament that would make doctors no longer risk
up to four years’ imprisonment if their intervention to help
women with severe health issues causes the end of a pregnancy.

To date, no doctor has been prosecuted on such charges.

The centre-right opposition, the powerful Catholic Church
and some NGOs have described the law as not needed and paving
the way for a full liberalisation of abortion, a claim rejected
by the ruling centre-left Labour party.

Prime Minister Robert Abela’s government holds a comfortable
majority and no dissent has appeared within its ranks, but
opinion polls show a big majority against abortion, particularly
among older people.

The move to change abortion rules comes after a U.S.
tourist, Andrea Prudente, was refused a request in June to
terminate a non-viable pregnancy after she began to bleed
profusely.

Her doctors said her life was at risk and she was eventually
transferred to Spain where she had an abortion. She later sued
the Malta government, calling on the courts to declare that
banning abortion in all circumstances breaches human rights.

The case has not yet come to trial.
(Reporting by Christopher Scicluna; Editing by Alvise Armellini
and David Holmes)

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