Sunday, 29 May 2005

Abortion in the Constitution

It seems that the Morality Police are asserting their dominance on our island once again. From statements that IVF should only be available to married couples we've moved on to the Commissioner "for" (sic) Children stating that IVF should be prohibited altogether. Apparently people who have difficulty having children without medical assistance should just accept their fate and resign themselves to never having any. Now we have a motion to degrade the constitution by using it as a way to place the part of our criminal code dealing with abortion beyond the reach of democracy. I'm still somewhat at a loss to explain the reasoning behind this. Maybe the Vatican's recent surge in canonisations raised Tonio Borg's expectations to new highs.

Let's get one thing straight: Neither the law as it stands, nor lowering the constitution down to its level will change the fact that abortions do, and will continue to take place. Women who have unwanted pregnancies will always have that option, via the simple process of taking a quick trip over to Italy or just about any other country.

Also, as things stand - with all three main political parties essentially against abortion, it is very unlikely that the law prohibiting it is going to be removed any time soon. The only difference the constitutional amendment will make would be to make it much more difficult for future parliaments to change any of it. It shows an insulting lack of confidence in the political process by which our country is run, in future members of parliament as well as in the Maltese population as a whole. Tonio Borg is essentially saying that he doesn't trust us to elect people in parliament to represent our points of view. He wants to protect us from our own voting rights. How thoughtful.

I do not believe that the constitution should be abused for that purpose. In any democracy one has to accept that sometimes the will of the majority does not agree with one's own. If there should come a time when, in Malta, the majority decide that a woman should have the final say about her pregnancy, then the law prohibiting abortion should be repealed, even if a substantial minority disagree. It's either that or abandon all pretense at being a democratic nation.

Many have commented that one might as well entrench the laws against murder, or other similar laws. There is indeed a difference between these laws in that people aren't as certain about abortion as they are about murder. While most people are strongly aganist abortions in the late term, ask them about the morning-after pill and many will have doubts. True, there is no significant difference between a 9-month fetus and a newborn baby, but when you have a single fertilised egg, so small that one can't tell it apart from any other speck of dust without resorting to a microscope, it's difficult to say with a straight face "that's a person like myself". These uncertainties are well-founded. If a single fertilised egg is "a person", how does one explain what happens when that early zygote splits in two, to form identical twins? Since they formed from the same egg, and have the exact same genetic code, are they half a person each?

It seems that Minister Borg wants to protect us from the answers.

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