American woman fears for her health after Malta refuses abortion

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VALLETTA (Reuters) – An American couple called on Maltese authorities on Wednesday to let them leave Malta to have an abortion and avoid any risk to the mother after suffering symptoms of a miscarriage.

Malta is the only country in the European Union that does not allow abortion under any circumstances.

Andrea Prudente and her partner Jay Weeldreyer, from Seattle, were vacationing on the small Mediterranean island when Prudente, 16 weeks pregnant, started bleeding.

The couple requested termination of the pregnancy due to the risk of maternal infection and possible death. But doctors will not terminate the pregnancy, Weeldreyer told The Times of Malta.

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The couple also asked to travel to Britain where the pregnancy can be terminated, but doctors refused to certify that Andrea was fit to travel.

“We came to Malta for a babymoon. We certainly didn’t come for an abortion, but here we are talking about saving a woman’s life,” Weeldreyer, 45, told the newspaper.

They have been waiting for almost a week since being told their baby was going to die. But the medical staff at the Mater Dei public hospital refuses their request for a termination because the fetus’ heart is still beating and the mother’s life is not considered to be in imminent danger.

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Maltese health authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

“We’re stuck…we chose Malta because it was safe and there was good healthcare, and now we’re held hostage by that situation,” Weeldreyer said.

Maltese NGO Doctors For Choice said it supported the couple’s appeal, warning of the dangers of a repeat of the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar, who died in Ireland in 2012 of sepsis following a a miscarriage after 17 weeks of pregnancy.

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“The infection can pass through the ruptured membranes, into the uterus, then into the blood and lead to death,” the NGO said.

Opinion polls have shown that a large majority of Maltese are against the introduction of abortion, and the island’s two main political parties say they remain against its introduction.

(Reporting by Chris Scicluna; Editing by Alison Williams)

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