What is more prevalent on the Maltese islands than the belief that abortion is morally reprehensive in any shape or form? This writer can think of unhealthy eating and a compulsive love of cars as possible contenders. Scientific surveys consistently show that the vast majority of the Maltese population oppose the legalisation of abortion in this jurisdiction.
More remarkably from a European lens, the younger generation might be slightly more sympathetic to women who seek to terminate their pregnancy, but only slightly so. According to a MaltaToday survey, the most support for pro-choice activists comes from the 18-35 demographic, of which 52% are likely to agree with abortion for situations where the mother’s life is in danger.
For the Maltese pro-choice camp, that’s the best news there is, because overall, 67% of respondents from all age groups disagreed with abortion in cases of a child’s severe disability, and 71.5% were likely to disagree with abortion in cases of rape. Unrestricted abortion was favoured only by 2.6% of the population.
That basically means that there is practically a consensus against unrestricted abortion. So, it’s pretty fair that Kurt Sansone, who reported the survey, labelled it as “the greatest taboo”.
The pro-choice camp has a few talking points in its arsenal. It speaks about misogyny in disabling women to decide what happens to their pregnancy. There’s the argument, imported from the continent’s ECHR regime, that abortion is a human right and a component of healthcare access. All in all, the arguments are liberal, citing socioeconomic and political arguments that are advocated in liberal institutions in democracies that are less staunchly religious.
There’s a humorous, albeit cynical anecdote about how Malta tends to be 60% Labour, 30% PN, 2% small parties, 90% catholic and 100% hypocrite. It’s a joke to be enjoyed by private citizens, but politicians shouldn’t indulge too much in overly “woke” remarks or cynicism if they are striving to represent a significant part of that 100%.
Here’s a thought for the ‘woke’ liberals who tend to be prochoice. Cut politicians some slack when it comes to the abortion debate.
Pushing hard on abortion has become a political torpedo that has scuppered campaigns and crippled political parties. AD icon and vote-getter Arnold Cassola went independent. Camilla Appelgren’s credentials as a trendy environmentalist were tainted with suspicions of being a no-good supporter of baby-killing.
Therese Comodini Cachia, who is en route to becoming Malta’s first female Leader of the Opposition, was thrown the same dirty curveball recently. Her doctorate in human rights law should squash doubts that she wouldn’t be well aware of the European legal status of abortion.
But this isn’t the continent.
It’s Malta, where 9 in 10 people wouldn’t vote for you if they knew you were pro-choice, where the President would step down if presented with a Bill promoting access to abortion and attends rallies ‘against abortion’, where MPs call for the prosecution of any women who’s had an abortion.
Every child who attends PSD and/or religion classes is told from a young age that abortion is murder and morally wrong. Children are not in the business of thinking about socioeconomic disparities, social pressures, foetal abnormalities, and rape. Once the picture broadens, opinions tend to change. There’s an argument to be made that nobody in Malta ‘is’ pro-choice. Probably, you ‘become’ pro-choice.
If you are pro-choice, you’re aware that a lack of safe access to abortion endangers younger and poorer women disproportionately than richer ones with more stable lives. The latter is likelier to be able to travel abroad to get one, as is often the case with women in Malta.
Entertain a scenario where Malta gets an abortion clinic but popular opinion remains unchanged. It’s hard to imagine that the pro-life crowd would not occupy space outside that clinic’s door, as is done in the US. How would women’s anonymity be guaranteed? What women seeking an abortion wouldn’t still make the trip abroad to terminate their term?
That question was answered differently before borders closed and the airline industry crashed. Flights are more expensive and delays in seeking out time-sensitive abortive treatment could have dire repercussions for women.
Anyone pro-life reading this article might not have come this far without asking themselves “but what about the baby’s life?”
The truth is that this wasn’t written advocating for either side of the debate. A pro-choice group offered a rebuttal for Dr Comodini Cachia’s statement: ‘we aren’t pro-abortion, either’. Maybe the subtlety was intended, maybe it wasn’t.
But it is the case that coming out in favour of abortion rights is tantamount political suicide. Saying you’re pro-choice in a pro-life environment, which might be your classroom, your family, or your group of friends, is going to be met with adverse reactions, not a respectful nod and a thoughtful debate.
Malta is obviously unprepared to have that conversation. When abortion gets used as a way to demolish support for politicians seeking to make a difference in totally unrelated areas, it just isn’t going to happen. This writer just wouldn’t blame politicians for shying away on getting entangled in the abortion debate just yet.
(This article was originally posted on civilsocietymt.com)
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.
This author wished to remain anonymous.
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