The Malta College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' statement on the new abortion bill reviewed
Earlier today, the Malta College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (MCOG) has released a statement about the new abortion bill being discussed in parliament, which will allow women to access termination of pregnancy only when there is a perceptible risk to their life and in most cases only after the approval of three specialists.
The statement indicates a strong bias of the Malta College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists against abortion care, to the point that at times it reads more like a statement from a religious organisation than by a medical association. It refers to a fetus as a "child," which is not the correct medical term for the unborn. It also makes reference to the "perceived right to abortion" which is not a tenable position for a college of obstetricians and gynaecologists. All such colleges of international repute, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, consider abortion care to be essential healthcare for women, and the right to healthcare is not "perceived" but is real.
The statement praises the bill for correcting a "legal vacuum" in cases when abortion is required to save a pregnant person's life. In fact, there was no legal vacuum but such practice was illegal yet not enforced by prosecutors in Malta. It is anomalous that the MCOG has kept its silence on this matter until the issue spilled into the public domain last year with the story of Andrea Prudente, and until after the government proposed changes to the law. It should have been campaigning for such legal change in the interests of patients before the agenda was forced onto it.
The statement also praises the fact that decisions to terminate a pregnancy will, in most cases, need to be taken by no less than three doctors on the specialist register. It appears to justify this by saying it is a "multi-disciplinary team decision," even though a team of two gynaecologists and an additional consultant is not what is typically considered a multi-disciplinary team in healthcare settings. There are no international guidelines that state such decisions should be taken by more than one specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, and the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology believes the requirement in England for two doctors to authorise an abortion should be removed because this is not required for comparable forms of healthcare.
The assertion by the MCOG that this legal requirement to obtain approval by multiple specialist doctors will not lead to delays is not grounded in any evidence, and in fact there are suggestions from overseas cases of women who died due to being denied an abortion that delays in getting additional opinions of other doctors may have contributed to the death. The most disturbing part of the statement is that it seems to suggest individual specialists in Malta may "act on a whim." It should not be beyond the competence of a doctor who has completed specialist training in obstetrics to accurately identify a treat to life due to a complication, and to offer termination of pregnancy if indicated. For the unusually complex case where a consultant feels the need to consult their peers, this can be an option that is available if time allows but it should not be mandated by law.
The full MCOG statement can be read below: