mcloudyn.png
Monday June 14th, 2021 2:43AM

Proposal to decriminalize abortion prompts debate in Malta

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

VALETTA, Malta (AP) — A proposal to decriminalize abortion in Malta has stirred up a polarized debate on an issue long considered taboo in the country with the strictest abortion laws in the European Union.

Independent lawmaker Marlene Farrugia caught many by surprise this month when she presented a bill in Parliament calling for the removal of paragraphs in the criminal code that make it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to have an abortion or assist a woman in having one.

Though the law is rarely enforced — the Home Affairs Ministry says the last person jailed for abortion was in 1980 — backers argue it acts as a deterrent. Farrugia disagrees, saying that the fear of reprisal and punishment prevents women from seeking counselling and help in Malta, where surveys show public opinion remains firmly against abortion.

“Decriminalizing abortion is not the same as promoting it,” Farrugia told The Associated Press. “By criminalizing women, stigmatizing the subject of abortion and keeping this discussion a taboo, we are not saving lives and we are not helping the cause of making abortion obsolete.”

The Catholic island nation has liberalized some laws in recent years, legalizing divorce 10 years ago and same-sex marriage in 2017.

The bill is unlikely to advance through Parliament, where one major party has declared itself against decriminalization and the other implied it wants a debate in society rather than a vote in Parliament. But supporters say it has sparked a conversation that is long overdue.

“The people have woken up and many more have come out of the woodwork to declare themselves openly pro-choice,” said Isabel Stabile, of abortion rights activist group Doctors for Choice.

While Farrugia insists her bill wouldn’t legalize abortion, just remove the penalties for it, opponents disagree.

“We view the decriminalization of abortion as a smokescreen to introduce abortion right up until birth in Malta,” said Miriam Sciberras, Chairperson of the anti-abortion group, the Life Network Foundation Malta.

“If we really care about women, we first let them be born,” Sciberras said. “The law is there for a reason. It is there to protect us all, especially the vulnerable.”

Abortion has been legalized in nearly all EU countries, though Poland this year tightened its abortion laws following a constitutional court ruling. The only exceptions allowed under Polish law are when the woman’s life or health is at risk or if a pregnancy results from rape or incest. In Malta, the law doesn’t allow for any exceptions, but in practice doctors apply the “moral principle of double effect,” whereby the death of a fetus is viewed as an unintended consequence of efforts to save a woman's life, said Andrea Dibben, of the Women Rights Foundation in Malta. She added that this principle cannot always be applied and is insufficient.

Malta’s Archbishop, Charles Scicluna, has also weighed in on the discussion and delivered a homily in what was an indirect response to the notion of decriminalizing abortion.

“A mother’s womb is dear and holy, it is there that human life grows,” he said on May 13. “Let us pray for the womb to remain a place of life, not a place where killing takes place.”

Doctors for Choice estimates that at least 300 women in Malta have abortions every year, either by traveling to countries where abortion is legal, including Britain, Italy or the Netherlands, or by obtaining abortion pills.

One woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being prosecuted, told the AP she got in touch with an international organization that helped her obtain abortion pills. She was worried about any potential side effects from the pills but said she wouldn’t have sought medical help right away had she needed it, out of the fear of being caught.

“If something goes wrong, you’re stuck,” she said. “People should be able to find the support they need in the country. Not everyone has the financial means to travel abroad.”

Farrugia, who describes herself as “pro-life,” says she will continue to urge women "to use prevention and also not to terminate even if they find themselves burdened by an unwanted pregnancy.”

“However, should they decide to terminate after going through support and counselling, then abortion needs to be highly regulated and safe." she added. "Ultimately, no woman should be forced to carry on with a pregnancy she does not want.”

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Health, AP World News, AP Health - Women's health
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Para athlete teaches dribbling and diversity to Italian kids
Four second-grade classes in the Milan suburb of Verano Brianza have been learning to play basketball this spring from a real pro
3:57AM ( 8 minutes ago )
Proposal to decriminalize abortion prompts debate in Malta
A proposal to decriminalize abortion in Malta has stirred up a polarized debate in the country with the strictest abortion laws in the European Union
3:55AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Melbourne, Australia, set for 4th lockdown as cluster grows
Australia’s second-largest city is set to enter its fourth lockdown at midnight as concern grows over the rapid spread of infections from a coronavirus variant
3:22AM ( 43 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Hong Kong legislature moves closer to pass electoral reforms
Hong Kong’s legislature is moving closer to amending electoral laws that would drastically reduce the public’s ability to vote and increase the number of pro-Beijing lawmakers making decisions for the city
1:32AM ( 2 hours ago )
Signs point to shift in combating sexual assault in military
Momentum is building in Congress for taking sexual assault prosecution authority out of the hands of military commanders
12:42AM ( 3 hours ago )
Biden orders more intel investigation of COVID-19 origin
President Joe Biden is asking U.S. intelligence agencies to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic
12:10AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
New wolf killing laws trigger push to revive US protections
Wildlife advocates are pressing the Biden administration to revive U.S. government protections for gray wolves across the Northern Rockies after Republican lawmakers in Idaho and Montana made it much easier to kill the predators
4:44PM ( 11 hours ago )
West Virginia transgender athlete law challenged in court
A federal lawsuit has been filed challenging West Virginia’s new ban on transgender athletes from competing in female sports in middle and high schools and colleges
4:06PM ( 11 hours ago )
Bank CEOs return to Congress at time of deep partisan divide
The CEOs of the biggest banks went before Congress on Wednesday with plans to discuss how helpful Wall Street was for borrowers and businesses during the pandemic
2:39PM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
The Latest: Australia's Victoria state to return to lockdown
The city that was once Australia’s worst COVID-19 hot spot has announced a seven-day lockdown, its fourth since the pandemic began
1:43AM ( 2 hours ago )
Taiwan struggles with testing backlog amid largest outbreak
After a year of success, Taiwan is struggling with its largest outbreak since the pandemic began
12:16AM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Philippines officials warned to enforce lockdown
The president of the Philippines warns he will jail village leaders and police officers who don't enforce pandemic lockdown restrictions
11:21PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Health
Mississippi's last abortion clinic at center of US debate
Protesters yell and wave signs outside Mississippi's only abortion clinic on the three or four days it is open each week
1:32PM ( 4 days ago )
Texas governor signs law banning abortions early as 6 weeks
Texas has become the largest state with a law that bans abortions before many women even know they are pregnant
2:35PM ( 1 week ago )
Supreme Court throws abortion fight into center of midterms
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a potentially ground-breaking abortion case, probably this fall, and the news is energizing activists on both sides of the contentious issue
8:55AM ( 1 week ago )
AP Health - Women's health
Para athlete teaches dribbling and diversity to Italian kids
Four second-grade classes in the Milan suburb of Verano Brianza have been learning to play basketball this spring from a real pro
3:57AM ( 8 minutes ago )
Melbourne, Australia, set for 4th lockdown as cluster grows
Australia’s second-largest city is set to enter its fourth lockdown at midnight as concern grows over the rapid spread of infections from a coronavirus variant
3:22AM ( 43 minutes ago )
Thousands evacuate Congo's Goma after more volcanic activity
Tens of thousands of people are evacuating the city of Goma in eastern Congo for fear of another volcanic eruption by Mount Nyiragongo
3:16AM ( 49 minutes ago )
For Native Americans, Harvard and other colleges fall short
Native American activists at colleges are pushing their schools to do more to atone for past wrongs, much in the way states, cities and universities are weighing reparations for slavery and discrimination against Black people
3:09AM ( 56 minutes ago )
Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?
Experts say employers can make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, with some exceptions
3:03AM ( 1 hour ago )