UPDATED: ‘Celebrating pregnancy, I would have never thought about looking into Malta’s abortion laws’

American tourist facing health risks to fly to Spain to terminate unviable pregnancy after Mater Dei refuses


Updated with development that couple will be airlifted to Spain.

When American national Jay Weeldreyer and his partner Andrea Prudente chose Malta as their destination to travel to together to celebrate their growing family and getting through the first pregnancy trimester – the period that is always the riskiest – he had no doubt that Malta’s medical system would keep Andrea safe should an issue arise.

They booked their flights to Malta as they were drawn to it for its historical and cultural appeal and the fact that Malta is a member of the EU put Jay’s mind at rest that, should there be any issues, the healthcare system will have the right standards in place.

“Since it’s part of the EU we were expecting it to be thoroughly modern and therefore have a modern healthcare system. I had no doubt that the medical system in Malta would keep Andrea safe,” Jay told The Shift. “Instead, what I’m finding out is that now she’s had this partial miscarriage, her life is in jeopardy and they will do nothing to save her, and that is crazy. It’s crazy.”

With the aim of celebrating the pregnancy and spending time together to connect prior to becoming parents, the last thing Jay thought of doing was looking into Malta’s abortion laws. “I would have never thought about looking into Malta’s abortion laws,” Jay told The Shift.

Now, days into their vacation, the couple, who live in an area close to Seattle, Washington, is facing a nightmarish situation tangled in those very laws, which are very different from those in their own home. While doctors have told the couple that their baby will not survive, Andrea faces serious health risks.

Andrea, who is 16 weeks pregnant, went to the hospital after her water broke prematurely. However, due to Maltese law, doctors at Mater Dei Hospital are refusing to terminate the pregnancy, even though the couple asked for it to be terminated.

“She was told doctors can only intervene if she is imminently dying – not even getting an infection is enough. She was also told doctors cannot even discuss the option of abortion with her,” pro-choice NGO Doctors for Choice Malta wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday, where they broke the news.

For the couple, who already have to deal with the realisation that they are losing their child, the issue isn’t about abortion. “When I think of an abortion I think of people who are electively looking to terminate a pregnancy. In my mind, this has nothing to do with that. The baby’s lost. This is merely a medical procedure to protect my partner,” Jay added.

Facing further risk should the couple choose to travel by plane to terminate the pregnancy in another country, they are pleading with the authorities to terminate the pregnancy and decrease the health risks imposed on Andrea who is currently “distressed, greatly frustrated, and physically ok, but at risk,” according to her partner.

Speaking to this newsroom about the extent of risk that Andrea faces, gynaecologist Isabel Stabile said there is “zero chance” of the foetus surviving and that Andrea faces two risks: one being sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to infection, or haemorrhage through heavy bleeding.

The case echoes the 2014 case of Marion Mifsud Mora, the Maltese Canadian whose waters broke when she was 17 weeks pregnant while she was on holiday in Malta. She was airlifted to France paid for by her Canadian health insurance.

It is also a remnant of the cases of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland and Valentina Milluzzo in Sicily. In both situations, doctors did not terminate the pregnancy because a heartbeat was still present after the water broke and there was no hope of the baby surviving. Both women died of sepsis. 

On Thursday, it was announced that Jay Weeldreyer and Andrea Prudente will shortly be airlifted to Hospital Universitari Son Espases  in Mallorca, Spain, via air ambulance where the termination of the pregnancy will be carried out. Their lawyer, Lara Dimitrijevic confirmed that their travel insurance accepted to evacuate the couple since their situation is a life-threatening one.



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