Much has been written and proclaimed about when life starts and the methods and reasons to prevent or terminate it. Both sides of the political spectrum still profess to be against abortion and the termination of intra-uterine life at whatever stage of gestation.
I attended the final ‘stage managed’ session of the morning after pill debate of the Social Affairs Parliamentary Committee.
That the matter had been already decided upon was evident from the chairman’s and minister’s attitude towards arguments brought forward by NGOs and members of the public who were arguing against its importation. A few days later, the chairman writes a Talking Point arguing that life begins when there is brain activity. On the basis of such reasoning many could well argue that life begins when the baby is born or when it can go and live on its own.
Papers for and papers against were presented. This is proof enough that the matter contains as yet unresolved grey areas. But it seems that what our politicians think is more important and sacrosanct than what science cannot definitely prove. They know it all. Just factor in the hardships that many are enduring since the gates of divorce were opened on the pretext that unhappy marriages too were hardships. What will emanate from gay adoptions is still a joy to come. Poor children – our modern toys.
I have always tried to follow the wise saying that ‘when the stable door opens the horse bolts’. We have opened more than a stable door. I believe we have opened the floodgates. We have thrown overboard our past values and morals in the name of progress and individual rights. Once abortion is legalised, we would have achieved it all. I say legalised, for abortion is among us and its practice is a stark fact.
That women can buy abortifacient tablets over the internet is another fact. That doctors are prescribing the pill, that women buy it over the counter and use it as an abortifacient is undisputable. But does all this justify legalising tablets when there is lack of consensus over whether they are or are not an abortifacient? Do we want to open the floodgates?
Are women right in stating and believing that their body is theirs and that they have a civil right to do what they want with their body? Are men right in forcing women to abort because they do not want their babies or because their babies are the result of their infidelity or of sexual abuse or of their refusal to wear condoms? And haven’t methods of contraception actually contributed to the increase of sexually-transmitted diseases, not least among which HIV and HPV and Herpes, which haunt our female population to their death? All of this is in the name of progress, civilisation, civil rights and being European.
I reason from a different perspective:
As long as a woman is not pregnant, she can do what she likes with her body as long as she does not turn to society to bear the consequence of her actions. Every right must carry its responsibilities and obligations. We are living in an age of rights. But where are the responsibilities and obligations these carry?
Once a woman becomes pregnant, her body is no longer hers alone. She bears an embryo, foetus or baby with a distinct and diverse DNA and, if we are true to our civil rights proclamations, this embryo, foetus or baby has a divine right to life.
The woman bears a genetically distinct human organism, which, although she can claim to be hers, still gives her no God-given or legislative power to destroy it. Thou shall not kill makes no reference to in or out of the womb.
The woman bearing the embryo, foetus, baby is not the sole creator or procreator. This necessitated a male who is fully conscious of the results of his acts. Let’s not be naive that, in the present day, two having sex do not do so in full knowledge of the consequences.
The new embryo/foetus/baby bears the particular genetic combination of both and, therefore, is the responsibility of both and belongs to both. Today, a simple DNA test helps to identify the real perpetrator.
The claim that the child the woman carries is her own to do with what she likes is actually absolving the male from his share of responsibility.
Is it fair for society to carry the can he has abandoned even while preventing the innocent from the consequences of today’s hedonism? Should the womanbe left to carry the responsibility on her own? Shoulder the responsibility? Should the male be allowed to shed his semen without hindrance or any responsibility for his actions?
The argument should not be based on the destruction of life (abortion) as a solution to an unwanted pregnancy. If we do not want to develop dysentery, we do not eat raw meat. If we do not want to get hurt, we stay away from danger. If we do not want to acquire a sexually-transmitted disease, we wear a condom. If we do not want an unplanned pregnancy, we must take proper precautions.
This is the education and help the nation must give. This is the responsible message and solutions our legislators must send.
It is only when we recognise and shoulder our responsibilities as well as our rights that we can then solve or deal with the exceptions that today we use as pretext for blanket solutions or, possibly, unmitigated disasters.
Can a society that destroys life rather than cherish it claim to be a ‘whole’ and ‘caring’ society?
Let us wake up and stop this selfish approach. Let us wake up to our rights as much as to our responsibilities. Let us wake up and stop this fast downward trend to hardship and sufferings for the many who fall into the trap disguised as ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’. Let us stop this new poverty, which is fast growing.
For centuries, the men and women of these islands have fought tooth and nail, have suffered and endured, to live, love and procreate on the pieces of rock we are proud to call home.
Are we now turning the knife on ourselves and doing what so many of our historic enemies could not accomplish?
Let us proudly determine to defend life in all its stages. Only then can we be truly worthy of the sacrifices our ancestors have undergone in the creation of our very specific Maltese identity.
Josie Muscat is chairman, Saint James Hospital Group.