The US woman whose life was put at risk as Maltese doctors refused to perform a life-saving abortion, despite the fetus having a “zero chance” of survival, will be airlifted to Spain for a life-saving pregnancy termination on Thursday.
Andrea Prudente’s request to terminate her non-viable pregnancy was turned down by the Maltese health authorities despite fears for her health, as Malta is the only European Union country with a full abortion ban.
The authorities had prevented her from travelling abroad earlier as they refused to issue a certificate to travel via air ambulance or a medical escort. Prudente was then told that taking a commercial flight could lead to complications and even death due to air pressure.
However, their US travel insurance has accepted to evacuate the couple via an air ambulance, given that the situation can be classified as “life-threatening”, meaning that they are no longer required an approval from a doctor.
Prudente remains in a stable condition and her husband told the Times of Malta they are “very relieved” that a safer situation is in sight.
The 38-year-old Prudente was hospitalised in Malta after severe bleeding occurred in the 16th week of her pregnancy, putting her at an “extreme risk” of haemorrhage and infection. Doctors told her the fetus had no chance of making it alive but also refused to perform an abortion due to the country’s anti-abortion laws.
Malta is the only EU country that has a total ban on abortion in all circumstances, which forced the couple to look for options abroad.
The couple had chosen to visit Malta for their “babymoon” after Prudente’s first three months of pregnancy because of its warm weather, historical sights and good healthcare system.
“Let’s not forget that here we are talking about a wanted pregnancy,” their lawyer Lara Dimitrijevic said. “But here in Malta doctors' hands are tied since according to the law they would be committing a crime by terminating the pregnancy. This case highlights the need to decriminalise abortion.”
In Mallorca, Spain, doctors will be able to terminate the pregnancy and prevent any life-threatening infections from occurring.
Strictest anti-abortion laws
The case has highlighted Malta’s abortion laws, which are the strictest in the EU. While pro-choice campaigners have said the issue emphasises the urgent need to decriminalise abortion, pro-life groups disagree.
Miriam Sciberras from the pro-life Life Network Foundation Malta said that doctors already have a legal and ethical obligation to do all that they can to save the life of the mother, whatever the consequences to the unborn child. “They try to save both the mother and child but, if that is not possible, they give the mother the care she needs even if it means that the child loses their life.”
However, doctors are legally not allowed to terminate the pregnancy unless the mother's life is immediately threatened, or they risk criminal charges.