American woman denied abortion in Malta to be airlifted amid fears for her life

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At 16 weeks pregnant, Andrea Prudente traveled with her partner to the European island nation of Malta for a honeymoon vacation. However, instead of enjoying a relaxing trip to celebrate her pregnancy, the American woman began to bleed profusely and she was admitted to the hospital, becoming trapped in what I call “a nightmare” after doctors told her the fetus would not survive.

The hospital authorities of Malta, the only country in the European Union that prohibits abortion under any circumstances, would not allow them to terminate the pregnancy. Rights activists in Malta say the legislation threatens reproductive health and have tried to challenge it in court.

The couple from Washington state, near Seattle, said Prudente’s water broke and amniotic fluid was gone, raising the risk of infection and potentially threatening her life. They feared they were “stuck” as they requested medical transfer to another country to terminate the pregnancy, but initially had difficulty getting doctors to certify that they were fit to travel.

After days of panic and calls for help, Prudente secured an emergency airlift on Thursday through his travel insurance to undergo the procedure in Mallorca, Spain, according to maltese media.

“We certainly did not come for an abortion, but here we are talking about saving a woman’s life,” her partner, Jay Weeldreyer, saying the Times of Malta before.

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

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

While the US couple may have secured an evacuation through their travel insurance, the nonprofit said it heard from Maltese women in similar situations who were “afraid to speak out” and had little choice.

The country’s laws mean that women who have abortions and the doctors who help them can face prison terms, although prosecution and imprisonment have not been applied in several years, he said.

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

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Women’s groups said Prudente’s case was reminiscent of the story of dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died in 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 landslide vote, as a few other countries made it easier to do the procedure legally in recent years, including Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, New Zealand and Thailand.

The American couple’s appeal comes as the debate over abortion, one of the most polarizing issues in American politics, grows more heated. Lawmakers in some states have made access difficult, and a leaked draft opinion suggests the US Supreme Court. could nullify the right to abortion established in Roe vs. Wade sent shock waves across the country last month.

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