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Malta's abortion ban has no exceptions




In his letter ‘Ectopic pregnancy: the truth’ (December 10), Klaus Vella Bardon accuses our organisation of being “unjust and dishonest” when we say that abortion in Malta is not legally permissible in cases when the woman’s life is at risk. In his previous letter, ‘Killing of the weak’ (December 8), he personally accused me of lying for stating the same fact.


I will quote the Criminal Code and let readers make up their own mind. “Article 243: Any physician, surgeon, obstetrician, or apothecary, who shall have knowingly prescribed or administered the means whereby the miscarriage is procured, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from 18 months to four years and to perpetual interdiction from the exercise of his profession.”


Also of note is Article 241(2) that condemns women who have abortions for any reason to a jail term of up to three years. There are absolutely no exceptions to this law and any type of abortion is illegal in Malta. Any doctor who knowingly terminates a pregnancy is liable to imprisonment and loss of his or her licence.


This law means that treatments that directly damage an embryo, like methotrexate, are technically illegal. It also means doctors cannot terminate a pregnancy if the woman’s physical or mental health is at risk, they cannot terminate the pregnancy of a woman with a foetus that will die shortly after birth, they cannot terminate the pregnancy of a woman who has been raped and they cannot terminate the pregnancy of an abused underage girl. This is the reality we are living in, a reality that we are campaigning to change.


As stated by Lesley Regan, former president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, abortion care is an essential area of women’s healthcare. Unfortunately, the law in Malta does not allow doctors to practise in accordance with international standards and norms. There is nothing ethical or patriotic in denying women healthcare and bodily autonomy. It is time to mature as a country and show women some respect by legalising abortion. Let us just hope no woman must die before this happens.


By Dr Christopher Barbara

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Doctors for Choice (Malta) is a registered voluntary organisation in Malta (VO/1816) and a Partner Organisation with Global Doctors for Choice (GDC).