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Malta plans to loosen its strict abortion laws, the last country in the EU to end a total ban on the procedure, and one that penalized terminations also in cases involving rape and incest, ABC News reported.
Health Minister Chris Fearne said the government will amend legislation to allow abortions if the mother’s life or health is at risk or if the fetus is not viable.
Under the country’s current criminal code, women who terminate their pregnancies or those helping them face up to four years in prison.
The proposed amendment came after a pregnant American woman nearly died in the Mediterranean country because doctors refused to perform an abortion. The woman, Andrea Prudente, had a miscarriage and was at risk of hemorrhaging if she didn’t terminate her pregnancy.
Because Maltese doctors couldn’t perform the procedure, she was flown to Spain where she could get an abortion.
Prudente and her husband, Jay Weeldreyer, sued Malta’s government, saying the ban was unconstitutional and violated the European Convention on Human Rights. The case has yet to go to trial.
Meanwhile, Malta Today reported that her case prompted the review of the law.
The predominately Catholic country would become one of a handful of nations in Europe such as Poland and Andorra where abortions are severely restricted.
A predominately Catholic country, most Maltese favor abortion restrictions: One recent poll found that nearly 62 percent of Maltese do not believe abortion should be decriminalized, while almost 28 percent believe it should be legal in certain circumstances.