US tourist’s life in limbo due to Malta’s strict abortion laws

Doctors on the picturesque Mediterranean island of Malta are being accused of “playing chicken” with the life of a frightened American tourist whose life hangs in the balance.

Andrea Prudente and her partner Jay Veldreier were on vacation in the Catholic-majority island nation in the south of Italy when Prudente suffered what seemed like a miscarriage.

The American, who is in her 16th week of pregnancy, was rushed to the hospital with heavy bleeding. Doctors said the baby was fine, but things quickly deteriorated.

A day later, Prudente’s waters broke and an ultrasound revealed that the placenta had partially separated from the uterus.

The baby still has a heartbeat, but doctors say he has “no chance of survival” because there is no amniotic fluid left.

With the life of a frightened American tourist at the doctors on the picturesque Mediterranean island of Malta
Prudente is in her 16th week of pregnancy and was rushed to the hospital with heavy bleeding.
Courtesy Jay Veldreyer

At home in the United States, couples will be able to terminate a pregnancy, but Malta is the only country in the European Union that bans the practice outright.

So the only option left with the couple is to wait for the baby to stop beating. In the meantime, though, there’s a very real risk that Prudente could succumb to a life-threatening infection while you wait.

“She’s scared,” her partner Jay told AFP from the hospital.

Ms Prudente had what looked like a miscarriage when outside Italy.  The American, who is in her 16th week of pregnancy, was rushed to the hospital with heavy bleeding.
The baby still has a heartbeat, but doctors say he has “no chance of survival” because there is no amniotic fluid left.
Courtesy Jay Veldreyer

“It feels like a cruel and unusual punishment is being inflicted on an innocent woman.

“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.

She fears she won’t survive something like sepsis, adding: “They’re playing chicken with mom’s death.”

The couple’s insurance company is trying to get them somewhere outside Malta, where doctors will be ready to intervene.

Aerial view of Lady of Mount Carmel Church, St. Paul's Cathedral in Valletta City, Malta
Malta is the only country in the European Union that bans abortion outright.
Getty Images/iStockPhoto

But Veldreyer says her risk of miscarriage and potential complications up in the air has left no one ready to take her on.

“Maybe we will be able to get some mercy or grace from Malta, that would be the best thing. Assuming that cannot happen, we hope she survives the flight,” he said.

Malta outright bans abortion, even when there is no chance of the fetus surviving.

General practitioner Natalie Cyla, a member of Doctors for Choice, citing medical notes confirmed the details of the American couple’s case.

With the life of a frightened American tourist at the doctors on the picturesque Mediterranean island of Malta
Doctors on the picturesque Mediterranean island of Malta are being accused of “playing chicken” with the life of a frightened American tourist whose life hangs in the balance.
Courtesy Jay Veldreyer

She told AFP that the fetus “has no chance of survival,” as there is no amniotic fluid left, but added to the mother, “This situation is very dangerous.”

“If she deteriorates, the doctor will consider breaking the law (and risk four years in prison) and terminate the pregnancy.”

The risk facing Prudente is very real. In 2012, 31-year-old Irish woman Savita Halappanavar died of sepsis after a miscarriage after she was denied a medical abortion.

His death angered public opinion and led to a change in the law there.

Blue Lagoon is one of the best beaches in Malta, located between Comino Island and Cominoto Island.
Veldreyer considers Malta’s stand on abortion heartless.
Getty Images

For Veldreyer and Prudente, the situation has yielded no good results.

Hearing the baby’s heartbeat, “Your heart kind of jumps because you’re glad it’s still, you think, what a little fighter,” said Veldeyer.

“Then the reality hits that no matter how much of a fighter she is, she can’t win.

“And in fact the longer she walks, the more she is exposing her mother to a really serious risk every day.”

The couple are speaking out by the authorities in hopes of a change of heart, but also to acknowledge the preachers who have helped them and see Veldair as a ruthless lawmaker.

With the life of a frightened American tourist at the doctors on the picturesque Mediterranean island of Malta
For Veldreyer and Prudente, the situation has yielded no good results.
Courtesy Jay Veldreyer

“You have to be a very rude person to have a position like this. I think they should be ashamed,” he said.

The Maltese government has yet to make any official comment on the matter.

Dr. Saila said that despite all the risks, Prudente has the option of moving away from Malta.

“Maltese women do not have this option,” she said, adding to the current legal position, “it cannot proceed.”

Dr. Lara Dmitrijevic, a lawyer in Malta and chair of the Women’s Rights Foundation, told the bbc That she has been fighting for the law for years.

“The women here rarely speak,” she said.

“Common practice is that doctors either let the body expel the fetus on its own, or – if the patient becomes very ill and develops sepsis – they will intervene to try to save the mother’s life.

“We know that on an average there are two or three such cases every year, but after Andrea came out publicly on social media, we started seeing many more women coming forward and sharing their experiences. “

, with AFP

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