An American woman is denied an abortion in Malta and fears for her life

An American woman is denied an abortion in Malta and fears for her life

An American woman was left in fear for her life after she was denied an abortion despite suffering symptoms of a miscarriage while on vacation in Malta, the only country in the European Union that bans terminations in all cases.

Andrea Prudente, 38, is 16 weeks pregnant but was told her pregnancy will not survive after she suffered heavy bleeding for the first time while on vacation last week. Women’s rights groups say she now faces possible infection and other serious health complications that could ultimately result in her own death.

But due to Malta’s ultra-strict laws, unchanged since the 19th century, any doctor who performs an abortion there could face up to four years in prison, as long as the fetus’s heart is still beating. Abortion rights activists and doctors have warned that cases like this could become more common in the United States if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade.

Prudente will now be flown to Spain in hopes of miscarrying, after doctors in Malta refused to certify her fit to travel.

“The insurance company has finalized the arrangements for them to be airlifted to Mallorca. Andrea is being discharged as the Maltese medical advice is for her to remain under observation,” the couple’s lawyer, Lara Dimitrijevic, told the Reuters news agency on Thursday.

She had been in hospital in Malta for a week, facing an agonizing daily check of her baby’s vital signs.

“I just want to get out of here alive,” she told The Guardian from the hospital on Wednesday. “Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a nightmare like this.”

Prudente’s partner, Jay Weeldreyer, 45, said the daily check of the baby’s heartbeat was “an unconscionable form of emotional and psychological torture.” He also told the Times of Malta newspaper that the couple, who are from Seattle, feel they are being held “hostage”.

“We came to Malta on a honeymoon. We certainly didn’t come for an abortion, but here we are talking about saving a woman’s life,” she said.

Both Mater Dei Hospital and the Maltese government have been contacted for comment.

The couple were vacationing on the small Maltese island of Gozo when Prudente began bleeding profusely on June 12. Doctors said her fetal membrane was ruptured, leaving no amniotic fluid behind.

“He was told that doctors can only intervene if he is imminently dying; even having an infection is not enough. They also told her that doctors can’t even discuss the abortion option with her,” said Doctors for Choice, a women’s rights campaign group. and abortion services.

The non-governmental organization said the case was reminiscent of that of Dr. Savita Halappanavar, a dentist in Ireland who died in 2012 of septicemia following a miscarriage when she was 17 weeks pregnant.

Dr. Isabel Stabile, a Maltese gynecologist and Doctors for Choice member who reviewed Prudente’s medical notes, confirmed to NBC News that Prudente’s waters broke a little over a week ago and that “little to no amniotic fluid remains in the uterus.” “.

“This is a case of pre-premature, premature, premature rupture of membranes, which occurs in less than 1% of pregnancies, but has potentially serious complications, such as sepsis and hemorrhage, that endanger women who are unable to abort,” he said. . she said she.

Women in the United States and around the world face serious risks from diminishing abortion rights, said Marlene Farrugia, a former independent member of Parliament in Malta who led unsuccessful efforts to decriminalize abortion by introducing a landmark bill in 2021.

“The potential rollback of reproductive rights by undermining or reversing Roe v. Wade will have catastrophic global repercussions, particularly in countries like Malta, where we are fighting for even basic decriminalization of abortion,” he said.

“It is tragic that, as we speak, our hospital has once again become a place where the heartbeat of an adult woman is worth less than the heartbeat of a dying fetus.”

Mina Jack Tolu, a long-time abortion rights campaigner in Malta and a committee member of the European Green Party, criticized the fact that a potentially life-saving operation was delayed due to the country’s strict laws.

“Unfortunately, Malta’s outright abortion ban, a law that criminalizes doctors and would bar them from practicing their profession, is being used as an excuse to stop the life-saving procedure,” Tolu said.

“The abortion ban is not just about abortions, it is a ban on access to comprehensive and holistic reproductive health care.”

Support for strict abortion laws remains high in heavily Catholic Malta. When Farrugia’s reforms were debated last year, 67% said they supported abortion remaining a criminal act, while 18% supported a change, according to an opinion poll.

Doctors for Choice estimates that at least 300 Maltese women have abortions each year. A third of them travel abroad to countries like the UK or the Netherlands while the rest use abortion pills.

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