American woman refused abortion in Malta to be taken off the air for fear of her life

Written by Javed Iqbal

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As the 16th pregnant, Andrea Prudente traveled with her partner to the European island nation of Malta for a babymoon vacation. But instead of enjoying a relaxing trip to celebrate her pregnancy, the American woman began to bleed profusely and was hospitalized and caught in what she called “a nightmare” after doctors told her the fetus would not survive.

The hospital authorities in Malta, the only country in the EU that does not ban abortion under any circumstances, would not allow them to terminate the pregnancy. Malta’s rights activists say the legislation threatens reproductive health and have sought to challenge it in court.

The couple from the state of Washington, near Seattle, said that Prudente’s water broke and that there was no more amniotic fluid, which increased the risk of an infection and the possible threat to her life. They feared they were “stuck” when requesting a medical transfer to another country to terminate the pregnancy, but initially had difficulty being certified as fit to travel by doctors.

After days of panic and appeals for help, Prudente secured an emergency air bridge Thursday through their travel insurance to review the procedure in Mallorca, Spain, according to Maltese media.

“We certainly did not come to have an abortion, but here we are talking about saving a woman’s life,” her partner, Jay Weeldreyer, told Times of Malta earlier.

Doctors for Choice, which advocates for reproductive rights in Malta and services including abortion, said that despite the woman’s ruptured membranes and loosened placenta, an abortion was denied because “there is still a fetal heartbeat.”

How abortion laws in the United States compare to those in other countries

Doctors had told Prudente that they “can only intervene if she is dying,” the group said this week, even though she faced the strain of carrying a fetus that would not survive and the risk of infection , such as sepsis or bleeding. It said obstetric guidelines typically recommend offering termination to avoid infection or death “in critical cases where the fetus is not yet viable, within 24 weeks.”

While the American couple may have secured an evacuation through their travel insurance, the non-profit organization said it heard from Maltese women in similar situations who were “afraid to speak out” and had few options.

The country’s laws mean that women who have an abortion and doctors who help can risk jail time, even if prosecution or imprisonment has not been enforced for several years, it says.

There was no immediate comment from the authorities in Malta, where activists protested against the total ban on Wednesday outside parliament.

World leaders worried about the possible overthrow of Roe v. Wade

Women’s groups said Prudente’s case was reminiscent of the story of dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died at an Irish hospital in 2012 after authorities refused to terminate her pregnancy despite a miscarriage, due to the country’s abortion ban at the time.

Ireland has since lifted the ban in a referendum, as some other countries in recent years have made it easier to review the procedure legally. Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, New Zealand and Thailand.

The appeal of the American couple comes as the debate on abortion, one of the most polarizing issues in American politics, becomes more heated. Lawmakers in some states have made access more difficult, and a leaked draft opinion proposing the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade sent shock waves across the country last month.

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Javed Iqbal

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