Lawmaker urges Malta to stop criminalising women who seek abortions
Malta urged to stop charging women who seek abortions
Published: May 13, 2021 06:48 PM
A Maltese lawmaker made history on Wednesday by calling for the decriminalization of abortion in the Mediterranean island, which has one of the world's strictest bans.

In the first such move to amend the country's tough abortion laws, independent MP Marlene Farrugia presented a bill which would remove criminal sanctions for women who seek terminations. "It's a historic moment," said Lara Dimitrijevic, a lawyer and director of the Women's Rights Foundation, which campaigns on abortion rights in Malta.

"It is not legalizing abortion, but it is a very important first step."

Malta is one of five countries in the world that outlaw abortion in all circumstances, even when a woman's life is at risk. The others are El Salvador, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Vatican City. Procuring an abortion, or helping someone to do so, is punishable by up to three years in jail under Malta's criminal code.

A doctor carrying out a termination faces up to four years in prison and a permanent ban on practicing medicine.

Abortion opponents in the Catholic country say life begins at conception. But campaigners say the law does not stop women from having terminations and Malta must stop criminalizing them.

The online newspaper MaltaToday described the bill as "a bolt from the blue," adding Farrugia was not known as a pro-choice politician.

Dimitrijevic said the surprise bill had immediately sparked a huge outpouring of support on social media and many people had started gathering outside parliament.