‘Boy, oh boy, where to begin?’ This is how Alice Taylor set the tone for her piece in The Malta Independent on Sunday (24 December), conjuring up a mental image of herself rubbing her hands together lasciviously, drooling in anticipation of all the spots she’s going to knock off her opponents. Only, this is not the prelude to a bar-room brawl but a column in one of Malta’s leading newspapers, no less.
There is little evidence that the literary standards of the local media have improved much in recent years, but if Alice Taylor’s work is anything to go by then they have deteriorated a lot more than is generally supposed. I don’t know who Alice Taylor actually is, but it is clear that, as argumentative commentary goes, she’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. And insofar as the debate on abortion is concerned, I’d worry only if I found myself on the same side as her.
Taylor’s tactic, if indeed it even qualifies as one, seems to be that of hurling epithets at speakers and leaving it at that. Someone needs to point out to her that even the meanest of intellects can call a statement ‘rubbish’. The problem is following it up with a reason why it is so. And this is where Taylor is so clearly unable to deliver, leaving the reader with the inescapable impression that the accuser herself isn’t quite sure. Neither oratory nor argumentative style are Taylor’s strong points, but nowhere does she put her foot in it more emphatically than in her claim that to be opposed to her point of view is to be ‘unable to think critically, logically or even outside the box’. Coming from someone who has yet to demonstrate the most rudimentary familiarity with these skills, that is indeed an interesting comment.
It gets worse though. Taylor relies exclusively on a hotchpotch of outdated clichés and endlessly recycled slogans in her search for some sort of prop for her accusations. Having scraped the barrel clean on these, she takes a deep breath for her denouement: a dramatic denunciation of all opponents to her views as lacking any understanding of biology, human rights and contraception, intent only on misinformation and the fomentation of hatred. This, from someone whose combined knowledge of human embryology, as well as the Charter of Human Rights, would fit comfortably onto a small StickyNote. Heady stuff indeed!
Her gravest error, however, lies in her comments on Rebecca Kiessling’s recent visit (her second) to Malta. This seems to have irritated Ms Taylor no end. It was almost certainly something Rebecca said but it is less clear what exactly that was, because Taylor’s response was directed nearly exclusively at the allegation that Rebecca Kiessling makes her living, or at least part of it, from speaking publicly on the issue of abortion.
Quite apart from the fact that one would have expected a purported newspaper columnist to occasionally address the message, as opposed to the messenger, there is also the issue of the actual accuracy of Taylor’s allegations. The fact is that Rebecca Kiessling never received a cent for either of her two visits to Malta, staying in a host home on both occasions. Rebecca’s mission is speaking and the great bulk of it is done voluntarily.
Furthermore, she receives no payment from within her own organisation. She travels world-wide to create awareness on life choices, defending the vulnerable. She speaks about the right to life of the child born from rape. As a true femminist, she speaks about the protection of women from rapists and promotes termination of the parental rights of the rapist to protect the women after they give birth. As a lawyer, she and others have defended human embryos who, in couple separation cases, often end up losing their lives. Unlike most of Taylor’s splutterings, all this is documented and verifiable. I believe it would be a good idea at this point to draw Taylor’s attention to these details and ask her, publicly, if she wishes to stand by them, rethink them or even, perhaps, withdraw them altogether.
In the course of her uninspired meanderings, Taylor goes out of her way to express her personal glee at the anticipation of the introduction of abortion in Malta. She may well be right in this, but I would leave her with the following observation by Douglas Gwyn, nonetheless: ‘Truth is not determined by majority vote’.
Dr Miriam Sciberras BChD (Hons) MA Bioethics
Chairwoman Life Network Foundation Malta