Andrea and Jay never thought they’d be in this situation: praying that their daughter’s heart would stop beating before Andrea develops a potentially deadly infection.
The couple, from the United States, were on vacation in Malta when Andrea Prudente, 16 weeks pregnant, began to lose blood. Doctors said the placenta was partially detached, and her pregnancy was no longer viable.
But the baby’s heart was still beating — and in Malta that means that, by law, doctors cannot terminate a pregnancy.
The couple has been waiting for a week, confined in a hospital room.
“We’re sitting here with the understanding that if she goes into labor, the hospital will go into action. If the baby’s heart stops, they’ll help. Other than that, they won’t do anything,” Jay Weeldreyer tells the BBC. over the phone.
His voice is tired and irritated. He fears that Andrea’s condition could change rapidly at any moment.
“With the bleeding and separation of the placenta from the uterus, with the membrane totally ruptured, and the baby’s umbilical cord protruding from Andrea’s cervix, she is at an extraordinarily high risk of infection, which could have been avoided,” he says. .
“The baby can’t live, there’s nothing that can be done to change that. We wanted her, we still want her, we love her, we wish she could survive but she won’t. And not only are we in the situation we are in losing a daughter we wanted, as the hospital is also prolonging Andrea’s exposure to risk,” he adds.
Their only hope is an emergency medical removal to the UK — paid for by travel insurance.
In 2017, another tourist had to be transferred to France for an emergency abortion. But for Maltese women, this is not an option.
Abortion is illegal in Malta
The island has some of the strictest laws in Europe when it comes to abortion: terminating a pregnancy is illegal, even when the fetus has no chance of survival.
It’s a law that lawyer Lara Dimitrijevic, president of the Women’s Rights Foundation in Malta, has been fighting for years.
“Women here rarely have a voice,” she says.
“The general practice is that doctors either let the body expel the fetus on its own, or — if the patient becomes very sick and develops sepsis — they then intervene to try to save the mother’s life.”
“We know that, on average, there are two or three cases like this every year, but after Andrea made her story public on social media, we started seeing a lot of other women come forward and share their experiences.”
Dimitrijevic says the law needs to change because a practice like this is not just a health risk for women, it’s also a psychological trauma for them and their families.
The BBC reached out to the Maltese government and hospital administration for comment, but received no response.
After six days, waiting for one of two terrible things to happen, Jay tells me that he and his wife are exhausted.
“This procedure could have been done in two hours, without putting Andrea at risk and allowing us to grieve,” he says.
“Instead, is it this extended thing, where you end up with really dark thoughts, wondering how this could end?”
‘This text was originally published in https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-61907263‘