Home > Malta > Duty to protect, not kill – George Vella

It is amply clear that the campaign for the eventual legalisation of abortion is gearing up and using all available means to keep the issue on the front burner.

This in spite of the repeated assurances from the Prime Minister himself, if I read what he says correctly, that there is no chance of abortion being legalised, under his watch.

This concerted campaign also flies in the face of the unequivocal, clear and impressive message, sent by respondents to a survey conducted recently (February 4) by another section of the press, which showed in loud and clear terms that the overwhelming majority (over 95 per cent) of the Maltese population, across the whole age spectrum, are against abortion, with figures dropping slightly when emotional and highly debated ethico-moral situations, such as ‘mother’s life put in danger’, ‘severe disability of the unborn child’, ‘rape’, ‘pregnancy in under-16s’ are factored into the equation.

The message is there for everyone to see.

This is why I was once again appalled at the patriarchal and didactic attitude assumed by the outgoing Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, in his contribution to this paper (February 26).

Following his first pronouncements on the subject last November when he visited Malta, instead of answering to the challenging questions addressed to him concerning as to where he gets the mandate to recommend the killing of new life in the womb (abortion) as a human right, and to quote chapter and verse which Council of Europe convention backed by the unanimous vote of Member States declares abortion as a human right, he finds the audacity to come back lecturing us on the ‘need’ to reform abortion law.

I am sure the commissioner can employ his remaining weeks in office, more profitably campaigning for more human rights for people in war-stricken areas such as Syria, on human trafficking, and the rights of suppressed, downtrodden and exploited minorities.

The commissioner made the daring declaration that “the right to life does not apply prior to birth and that international human rights law and mechanisms do not recognise a prenatal right to life”.

He recommends “abortion care” should be available on a “woman’s request” in early pregnancy and throughout pregnancy, “to protect women’s health and life and ensure freedom from ill treatment”.


The commissioner astounds me when he speaks of avoiding what he calls “ill treatment” of the mother in the same breath that he recommends the killing of the foetus/baby (throughout pregnancy).

This extreme barbarous treatment of the baby in the commissioner’s dictionary goes by the euphemism of “abortion”. There cannot be more extreme ill treatment than outright killing.

The only positive recommendation the commissioner made, and with which we all agree, was when he appealed for full access to comprehensive sexual education and modern contraception, so as to help prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.

Let me point out that whereas the commissioner states that international human rights law and mechanisms do not recognise a prenatal right to life, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations (a global not simply European organisation) in November 1959, and recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, declares in no ambiguous terms that “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”.

Killing the foetus/baby during abortion surely does not qualify as “special safeguard and care”.

In this frenzied push to justify putting abortion on the political agenda we have also been told that we should put away all moral, ethical, and legal consideration and abide by what our conscience dictates, making conscience the final arbiter. (‘Conscience should be the final arbiter on abortion’, March 3.)

It has to be said that the issue of abortion is not one tied to any particular religious denomination. It is against the unnatural act of killing one’s offspring. It is one of civilised man’s basic ethics and instincts: thou shalt not kill. One is against it not because of Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or any other faith’s morals. It is because it is intrinsically wrong and against nature.

If, to follow the line of thinking of this so-called Catholics for Choice, we acknowledge conscience as the final arbiter, we can do away with prosecution of all types of wrongdoers and crime, because everyone would defend himself by claiming he was following the dictates of his conscience, ‘the final arbiter’.

Speaking on the rights of the unborn, I strongly appeal that in the coming debate on the amendments to the Domestic Violence Bill, presently before Parliament, the definition of “family or domestic unit” (Part 1, Art.2) includes “the child conceived but yet unborn of any of the persons mentioned as forming the family” as is presently in the Domestic Violence Act of 2006, Chapter 481 of the Laws of Malta. The term “an ascendant or descendant”, Part 1, Art 2 (d) as proposed in the Bill before Parliament, is too vague.

In any legal interpretation by our courts of law in the future, any respectable judge would invoke the maxim ubi voluit dixit, meaning that had the legislator wanted to include (the unborn child in this case), he would have made specific mention of it in the legislation.

Not including the unborn child in the definition of “family” conveys the wrong message, and will not be consonant with the Prime Minister’s repeated declarations of his opposition to abortion.

George Vella is a retired specialist in family medicine and  former minister for foreign affairs.

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