As coordinator of the Malta Unborn Child Movement (MUCM) I was invited to speak at the parliamentary hearings on the morning-after pill by the chairman of the Family Committee of Parliament.
At the hearing, I started reading a prepared short paper which was not supposed to take more than five minutes, according to the chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee Etienne Grech.
After only two minutes I was abruptly stopped by the chairman, and asked to state in a few words my position on the morning-after pill. My reply was that MUCM’s position was made public in the press from the beginning and after two hearings in which a number of medical experts and experts on ethics expressed their doubts whether the pill is abortifacient or not, we should adopt the precautionary principle and not act in any direction for the moment.
When I stated my and the MUCM’s position, the chairman ordered me to retire. At that moment Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli was sitting very close to the chairman.
The precautionary stance was recently adopted, very wisely, by Environment Minister Jose Herrera on the use of the weed killer glyphosate “which is considered a probable human carcinogen”.
Before retiring, as ordered, I drew the chairman’s and Dalli’s attention to the fact that what I had said, and was going to say, was based on facts and I, and MUCM, were being discriminated against and denied the right to freedom of expression, and of speech on the morning-after pill.
Besides it was an extreme lack of ordinary courtesy, if not much worse, to treat in such a bizarre and unorthodox way a person, and an organisation, invited by the same Joint Committee, to give its views on the matter.
This was supposed to help Parliament come to an informed decision on the very delicate matter of whether the morning-after pill is abortifacient or not, which is the crux of the whole matter.
I added that I was being prevented from delivering my complete presentation when all other speakers before me had done so.
Practically all of them took much more than five minutes, including, especially, the chairman of the Medicines Authority who took almost 75 minutes when he was supposed to finish after 10 minutes. I attended the three hearings.
They don’t mind breaking this or that law about unborn children as long as they have it their way
The incident was brought to the attention of the Speaker of the House.
During the two minutes of my very short and interrupted speech I had made some very constructive criticism of the long paper of the chairman of the Medicines Authority.
In spite of the three parliamentary hearings, and in spite of the fact that Dalli was present for the three hearings, she has reiterated many times that she is going to base her decisions on the licensing, importation and distribution of the morning-after pill on the recommendations of the Medicines Authority. Many understood, exclusively.
If this is going to be the case, why were the three parliamentary hearings held? Why were all those people, and organisations, called to advise the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the morning-after pill?
Why did the chairman of the third hearing say many times that the joint committee of the social, family and health committees of Parliament was going to study and analyse all the documents submitted by individuals and organisations? A very pertinent fact is that the chairman of the Family Committee, Godfrey Farrugia, a family doctor and former minister of health, has already declared his position that the morning after pill “may be is abortifacient”.
My very short paper, on behalf of so many unborn children, challenged, firstly, certain alleged ‘facts’ in the presentation of the chairman of the Medicines Authority, and secondly certain bizarre behaviour by the same chairman in my regard immediately after the first hearing in Parliament.
Unfortunately, all the women organisations, with the exception of the National Council of Women, who made presentations at the parliamentary joint hearings, spoke only about the rights of women over their bodies.
Nothing was said about the rights of unborn children from conception onwards; and this even though we have eight laws which protect the well-being and rights of unborn children from conception.
They don’t mind breaking this or that law about unborn children as long as they have it their way.
Even though we have it from Farrugia that demand for morning-after pill comes mostly from “single women” who don’t mind going for “unprotected and casual sex”.
That’s not really from the assorted groups of women as claimed by the Women’s Rights Foundation in their judicial letter to the Maltese courts and in the parliamentary hearing.
This is happening at a time when Maltese society has even introduced laws for the well-being and legal protection of animals. Amazing.
In defence of all unborn children at whatever stage of their gestation, MUCM strongly appeals to all Maltese parliamentarians to take note also of what was said lately by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Commenting on the big number of abortions carried out in the US, he warned the American people: “Future generations will call us barbarians.”
Tony Mifsud is coordinator, Malta Unborn Child Movement.