Lawmakers in Malta advanced an abortion bill Monday that pro-life advocates fear will allow abortion on demand in the small island nation.

Although MPs say the intent of the legislation is to clarify that abortions are allowed only when the mother’s life is at risk, pro-life leaders have expressed concerns that elective abortions could be allowed, too. Malta is one of the few countries in Europe that protects unborn babies’ right to life.

The Times of Malta reports the bill, which advanced in Parliament on Monday, allows abortions “when the termination of a pregnancy results from a medical intervention aimed at protecting the health of a pregnant woman suffering from a medical complication which may put her life at risk or health in grave jeopardy.”

Health Minister Chris Fearne told the Associated Press on Monday that they want to make the law clear that medical professionals are allowed to perform abortions to save mothers’ lives.

“It is clear that the spirit of this law is that no part of the law should preclude or hinder medical professionals from saving lives,” Fearne said.

ACTION ALERT: Contact lawmakers in Malta and urge them to oppose pro-abortion legislation.

However, the allowance for “health” exceptions, not just when the mother’s life is at risk, is causing alarm. In other countries, the term “health” is very broadly defined in abortion laws to include basically anything; some abortionists say pregnancy itself is a “health risk” and justifying the killing of unborn babies for any reason at any time.

Life Network Foundation Malta, a pro-life organization, has been wary of the legislation, fearing abortion activists will use it to legalize the elective killing of unborn babies “through the back door.”

“Today and in the last hundred years, no doctor went to prison for treating a pregnant woman in danger of losing her life,” the organization wrote on Facebook over the weekend.

Meanwhile, some abortion activists complained the amendment should be even more broad.

“There will still not be any provision to terminate pregnancies in cases of rape or incest, or in cases of foetal anomaly,” Isabel Stabile, of Doctors for Choice, told AFP.

Recent polls indicate the country supports strong protections for unborn babies. According to Lovin Malta, a 2020 survey found overwhelming public opposition to abortion, with just 5.2 percent of residents saying they support unrestricted access to abortion in the first trimester.

Malta has resisted international pressure to legalize abortion for years. In 2013, pro-abortion groups also accused Malta of “torture” because its laws protect unborn babies’ lives. The accusation came from the International Commission of Jurists, a human rights organization, in a report to the Human Rights Council. It also claimed Malta is unnecessarily endangering women’s lives by prohibiting abortions.

Until recently, a number of European countries protected unborn babies by prohibiting abortions. However, Ireland abandoned its pro-life laws in 2018 and Northern Ireland was forced to legalize abortion 2019 by the British Parliament.

Abortions are illegal in almost all cases in Poland, but Malta is the only European country that fully prohibits abortions.

ACTION ALERT: Contact lawmakers in Malta and urge them to oppose pro-abortion legislation.

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