In his article on the abortion debate recently, Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Carmel Cacopardo made two very important statements. The first was that “AD has radically changed”, the second, that “AD had taken a pro-life stance in the past and he was not proposing to change that”.
On the other hand, Martin Scicluna in his article ‘Pro-choice on abortion’ (October 18) is clamouring again for the introduction of abortion in Malta. The irony is that even though he himself has arrived at the conclusion that “there is no burning need for abortion in Malta on practical or humanitarian grounds”, because even “the figures don’t appear to suggest there is the need”, he keeps harping on its introduction.
According to him: “It is a fact that those relatively few Maltese women who want an abortion – perhaps around 100 each year – (can) obtain one by taking a flight to the UK or Italy and having it performed there.” So why is he shouting so loudly for the introduction of abortion in Malta? One can only speculate.
Apparently, one of the reasons AD has changed and now wants a debate on abortion, according to Cacopardo, is because lately the AD has been informed that some educators had observed that the number of children with Down’s syndrome attending educational facilities had noticeably declined over the past years.
He added that he had been informed that it is not clear whether this decline in numbers is real or perceived. Nor is it clear whether this observation is the direct result of a diminishing birth rate or else whether it has another explanation.
He said he had emphasised then, and reiterates now, that an informed debate on abortion and reproductive health is essential and that it needs to be fuelled by research. In international discourse “reproductive health” is synonymous with abortion.
Cacopardo said that during the last few years, private clinics have been offering pregnant women (presumably in Malta) two specific tests that can indicate whether the foetus has developed Down’s syndrome.
He added: “These tests are not provided by the national health service and so no information is publicly available as to how many such tests were carried out over the years and in how many cases the possibility of developing Down’s syndrome was identified. It is not known what follow-up action was taken by the expectant mothers in each of the cases subject to the above-referred tests.”
This is why, it seems, according to Cacopardo, “the matter needs to be researched and analysed in depth in order that a debate on abortion is carried out”.
The Malta Unborn Child Movement (MUCM) had asked for this kind of research not so long ago. In December 2013, the director general of the National Statistics Office had informed MUCM, upon its request, that the director of the Health Information & Research Department of the Ministry of Health was doing research in this direction.
In fact, in March 2015, the department published a report entitled ‘Congenital Anomalies in Malta’ by Miriam Gatt.
In October, US President Donald Trump affirmed the “inherent dignity” of people with Down’s syndrome and decried the “tragically misguided” sentiment that underlies anti-life attitudes toward them. He condemned discrimination against people with Down’s syndrome and praised “the family members, caregivers, medical professionals, and advocates who have dedicated themselves to ensuring that these extraordinary people enjoy lives filled with love and increasing opportunity”.
If Cacopardo is suspecting that Maltese parents are opting to abort their unborn babies, probably overseas, because of the detected disability he and AD are not alone. To this extent this has been a very good and insightful reflection, which might have sparked in Cacopardo the need for the abortion debate.
Denmark is on its way to matching Iceland’s 100 per cent abortion rate for unborn babies diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. In 2014, the Danish government reported 98 per cent of unborn babies who tested positive for Down’s syndrome were aborted. Denmark is encouraging prenatal testing and promoting discriminatory attitudes. Denmark is working to become “Down’s syndrome-free”, like Iceland, within the next decade.
In this scenario Cacopardo’s loud call for a mature debate on abortion could serve so that during the debate AD, as a pro-life political party, and many other pro-life national institutions, could suggest how abortion of Down’s syndrome unborn children could, and should, be avoided. This, to protect the dignity and rights of all unborn children, the disabled included, from potential harm of any description, including abortion.
The MUCM, with the very active participation of the Labour Party, the Nationalist Party and Alternattiva Demokratika, so far, has been doing this kind of promotion, especially on Pro-Life Days it organised for the last 10 years.
Thomas Verny, psychiatrist and family therapist, a world authority on womb ecology and author of the book, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child writes: “The evidence of intelligent life in the womb is overwhelming. Parents can contribute actively, before and during birth, to giving their child happiness and security for the rest of his or her life.” Pro-life activists will add: “In any situation, normal and not so normal. Not the other way round.”
It is suggested that Cacopardo, who is now leading the environment party, reflects seriously on the paragraphs in the book Environmental Justice and the Rights of the Unborn and Future Generations by Paula Westa, which I mentioned in my article. This to offer to work more closely with MUCM, the other political parties, and other national institutions on the Womb Ecology project agreed upon with the Speaker of the House of Representatives during the MUCM Pro-Life Day in February, where Simon Galea of AD also made a pro-life speech.
I call on Cacopardo and AD now to do that. Also to work for justice to be done to all unborn children, including those with all kinds of disabilities. As an environment party and with him at the helm, AD may turn out to be a chief promotor of human life from conception, after all.
As a pro-lifer, Cacopardo can also say a thing or two to Scicluna and his pro-choice friends; that abortion is always the deliberate killing of innocent human life at its very beginning, at whatever stage of its physical and mental development in a woman’s womb, and not a wart in a woman’s face, or a cancerous growth in a woman’s body, to be removed for very good cosmetic and health reasons.
Also, that there are other good solutions to unwanted pregnancies. Nobody has the right “to choose” to kill a little, defenceless and vulnerable human being.
It is amazing how a man of Scicluna’s calibre and stature, and in his 80s, full of human wisdom, has not yet discovered what many other pro-choice advocates, locally and abroad, among them many distinguished medical and other scientists, have already discovered about the rights and dignity of very little, defenceless, vulnerable and unborn human beings.
Tony Mifsud is coordinator, Malta Unborn Child Movement.