Should we see the glass as half empty or half full? In the first case, we can deplore that Malta leaves the list of the last four States in the world still resisting the sirens of secularization and prohibiting abortion in all circumstances: Salvador, Nicaragua, and Vatican City.
Supporters of the right to life can tell themselves that it could have been worse, and that their pugnacity was not completely defeated: the bill was modified in extremis thanks to the intervention by the Head of State in person, President George Vella, who warned parliamentarians that he would not sign the bill in its original form.
The latter stipulated that a simple doctor could allow abortion in the event of a medical complication. The final version specifies that if the woman’s life is not in imminent danger, the decision to abort requires the opinion of a team of three doctors.
Also, abortion can only take place if the fetus is non-viable (if it cannot survive outside the womb) and if all other permitted medical procedures have been ruled out. Finally, the collegial decision of three doctors is necessary to be able to issue an authorization to perform abortion.
A last minute addition which was denounced by the promoters of abortion: “You have given rise to hope among us, but in the end you have returned to your old positions,” Marceline Naudi, academician and feminist activist, declared before the deputies. “You had the opportunity to create change, but you preferred to turn your back on human rights and women’s rights,” she added.
As in many countries, the genesis of the bill dates back to the media hype that, in 2022, surrounded the trip to Malta of an American tourist who had been refused access to an abortion, while claiming that her life was in danger. By the way, is it not surprising to note, that she chose as a holiday resort one of the four countries in the world that refused abortion in all circumstances.
The life of the woman in question was apparently not in sufficient danger to prevent her from traveling to Spain to get the abortion she wanted, but the well-orchestrated episode allowed the Prime Minister, Robert Abela, to propose a change in the law to authorize abortion when a woman’s life is in danger.
It is a project that aroused the ire of the conservative opposition and the Catholic Church (Catholicism is the state religion in the country) which denounced a useless text opening a Pandora’s box, and leading to all types of subsequent excesses.
Despite the total ban on having recourse to abortion, the doctors of the main hospital on the island had already performed abortions, without ever being worried by the courts.
Malta has definitively lost its singularity with regard to the murder of the unborn child: the last state in the European Union (EU) to ban abortion, the island aligned itself with Europe by adopting, on June 28, 2023, a bill authorizing voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion) for the first time in certain circumstances.