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Demonstrations against loosening the abortion ban in Malta

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Thousands protested Sunday’s changes to Malta’s strict abortion ban. The country’s chief Catholic bishop and leader of the conservative opposition also took part in the archipelago’s biggest demonstration in years. Traditionally Catholic, Malta is the only EU country to ban abortion in general. This is true even if a woman’s life or health is in danger due to pregnancy.

Health Minister Chris Fearne recently tabled a bill in Parliament that would abolish up to four years in prison for doctors who help women with serious health problems terminate pregnancy. However, no doctor has ever been prosecuted in Malta for such a claim.

The movement harks back to a dramatic event: a pregnant US tourist bled heavily in Malta in June. The doctors who treated her said that the woman’s life was in danger. However, the termination of an unviable pregnancy was denied. She was later transferred to Spain, where the abortion took place. The woman then sued the Maltese government, asking the courts to declare that the ban on abortion violates her human rights.

Malta’s powerful Catholic Church, centre-right opposition and some civil society organizations opposed the proposed change, saying it paved the way for a full liberalization of abortion. Prime Minister Robert Abela’s government has a comfortable majority in parliament, and the proposed changes have been agreed within the party. But research shows that the vast majority of the population in Malta is against abortion, especially the elderly.

(APA/Reuters)

Source: Vienna

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