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American woman denied abortion in Malta, fearing for her life

An American woman fears for her life after she was denied an abortion despite showing symptoms of a miscarriage while on vacation in Malta, the only country in the European Union to ban abortions in all cases.

Andrea Prudente, 38, is 16 weeks pregnant but has been told her pregnancy will not survive after she suffered heavy bleeding for the first time while on holiday last week. Women’s rights groups say she now faces potential infection and other serious health complications that could ultimately lead to her death.

Prudente’s partner, Jay Weeldreyer, 45, told The Associated Press that she risked life-threatening infection if the fetal tissue was not quickly removed.

He added that she had heavy bleeding on June 12, followed by premature rupture of the amniotic sac and separation of the placenta. While the hospital was monitoring her carefully for any signs of infection, he said, the facility cannot perform the surgery to complete the miscarriage.

“The miscarriage is 80% complete,” Weeldreyer said. “Her waters broke, the placenta separated, but due to a (fetal) heartbeat” the fetus cannot be removed, he said.

But because of 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 there is still a fetal heartbeat. 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 having an abortion, after doctors in Malta refused to certify her fit to travel.

“The insurance company has finalized arrangements for them to be flown to Mallorca. Andrea is disconnecting as Maltese medical advice is that she remains under observation,” the couple’s lawyer, Lara Dimitrijevic, said on Thursday. to the Reuters news agency.

“I just want to get out of here alive,” Prudente told The Guardian on Wednesday from hospital. “I couldn’t have, in my wildest dreams, imagined a nightmare like this.”

The couple from Issaquah, Washington, a town near Seattle, arrived in Malta on June 5 for a long-awaited vacation, Weeldreyer said.

What started on what the couple thought would be a ‘babymoon’ vacation turned into this dilemma, the ‘worst of all possible worlds where there is no right choice’, he added .

The Mater Dei hospital where she is being treated and the Maltese government have been contacted for comment.

“She was told that the doctors could only intervene if she was about to die – even an infection was not enough. She was also told that the doctors could not even discuss the option of abortion with her,” said Doctors for Choice, a group that campaigns for women’s rights and abortion services.

The non-governmental organization said the case brought to mind Dr Savita Halappanavar, an Irish dentist who died in 2012 of sepsis 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 just over a week ago and that “he little or no amniotic fluid remains in the uterus”.

“This is a case of predictable, preterm, premature rupture of membranes, which occurs in less than 1% of pregnancies, but has potentially serious complications, including sepsis and hemorrhage, both of which endanger women who cannot abort,” she said. said.

Women in America and around the world are at grave risk from declining abortion rights, said Marlene Farrugia, a former Independent MP from Malta who led unsuccessful efforts to decriminalize abortion by presenting a landmark bill in 2021.

“The potential rollback of reproductive rights by undermining or overturning Roe v. Wade will have catastrophic global repercussions, especially in countries like Malta where we are struggling to achieve even basic decriminalization of abortion,” he said. she declared.

“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, Malta’s long-time abortion rights campaigner and European Green Party committee member, has criticized the delay of a potentially life-saving operation due to the country’s strict laws.

“Unfortunately, Malta’s complete abortion ban – a law that criminalizes doctors and would prevent them from practicing their profession – is being used as an excuse to delay the lifesaving process,” Tolu said.

“A ban on abortion is not just about abortion, but it’s a ban on access to comprehensive and holistic reproductive health care.”

Support for strict abortion laws remains high in strongly Catholic Malta. When Farrugia’s reforms were debated last year, 67% said they supported abortion remaining a criminal act, while 18% favored 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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