ROME, June 23 — An American woman has been left fearing for her life in Malta after suffering what seemed like a miscarriage but being denied an abortion due to the country’s strict laws, her partner said Wednesday.
“She’s terrified,” Jay Weeldreyer told AFP by telephone from a hospital on the Mediterranean island nation where his partner Andrea Prudente has been admitted.
“It feels like a cruel and unusual punishment is being levied upon an innocent woman.”
The couple were on holiday on Malta when Prudente went to hospital with heavy bleeding in her 16th week of pregnancy. The baby was okay, but a day or two later, her waters broke.
Another ultrasound showed the placenta was partially detached from the uterus, although the baby had a heartbeat, Weeldreyer said.
They were told to come back in 48 hours, when another ultrasound confirmed “the water’s gone, the baby’s... not going to survive”, despite still having a heartbeat.
Due to Malta’s total ban on abortion, however, doctors will not intervene, Weeldreyer said, an account confirmed by a non-profit group who publicised the case, Doctors for Choice.
So the couple is waiting.
“They’re waiting for the heartbeat to stop, they’re waiting for Andrea to miscarry, or they’re waiting for her to have a life-threatening infection,” he said.
However, he fears she would not survive something like sepsis, saying: “They’re playing chicken with the death of the mother.”
Their insurance company has been trying to fly them out of Malta to somewhere doctors would be prepared to intervene.
But he says her risk of mid-air miscarriage and potential complications has left nobody willing to take them.
“Maybe we’ll be able to receive some mercy or grace from Malta, that would be the best thing. Presuming that can’t happen, we’re hopeful that she survives the flight,” he said.
Catholic-majority Malta is the only country in the European Union that completely bans abortion, even when the foetus has no chance of survival.
A member of Doctors for Choice, general practitioner Natalie Psaila, confirmed the details of the US couple’s case, citing medical notes.
She told AFP that the foetus has “no chance of survival”, as there is no amniotic fluid left, but said for the mother, “this situation is very dangerous”.
“If she deteriorates, the doctor will consider breaking the law (and risk four years of prison) and terminate the pregnancy.”
The NGO fears a repeat of the 2012 death in Ireland of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old who died of sepsis after a miscarriage when she was denied a medical abortion.
Her death outraged public opinion and led to a change in the law there.
For Weeldreyer and Prudente, there is no good outcome from the situation.
Hearing the baby’s heartbeat, “your heart kind of leaps because you’re happy that it’s still there, you think, what a little fighter,” Weeldreyer said.
“Then the reality hits that it doesn’t matter how much of a fighter she is, she can’t win.
“And in fact the longer that she keeps going, every day that goes by, she’s exposing her mum to really serious risk.”
The couple are speaking out in hope of a change of heart by authorities, but also to acknowledge the campaigners who have helped them and expose what he sees as a heartless law.
“You’d have to be a pretty callous person to hold a position like this. I think they should be ashamed,” he said.
The Maltese government has yet to make any official comment on the case.
Psaila noted that for all the risk, Prudente has the option to fly away from Malta.
“Maltese women don’t have this option,” she said, adding of the current legal situation, “It cannot go on.” — AFP