The new amendments proposed by Government to the Criminal Code Bill relating to when a pregnancy can be terminated , is a veritable u-turn of the first order. After months of statements by the Prime Minister and others that the proposed provisions in the Bill were “the best “ one could put forward, drastic changes have been introduced .
By Tonio Borg, Prolife Network Malta and member of the One of Us Executive Committee
These changes were put forward after all hell broke loose following the initial proposals. The initial proposal allowed medical intervention which could terminate a pregnancy not only when there was an actual risk to the life of the mother ( a situation regularly applied for decades in practice with no prosecutions ever initiated ) , but also when there was a danger to the health of the would-be mother . This latter part meant that abortion was being stealthily introduced on such grounds as mental health problems which , is the usual pretext used in abortion cases in countries which have accepted in their legal system the termination at will of a pregnancy .
A coalition of pro-life movements joined forces soon after the Bill was published . More than 20,000 protesters of all ages and from all walks of life including the Catholic Bishops of Malta marched in Valletta last December in favour of life and against the Bill. 25.000 signed a petition aginst the Bill. More than 80 academics criticized the Bill but stated that should the provisions be linked only to danger to the life of the mother, they would support such legislation. Government persisted in its error. It even promised to pass the law soon after the Christmas recess. Then cracks started appearing in the establishment edifice. President Vella stated that he was not in favour of any law which permitted abortion. Former President Coleiro Preca actually addressed the massive audience at Valletta during the December march. Well known Labour pundits and supporters expressed their disagreement with the Bill. A poll was published that 58% of voters would not vote for a party which supported abortion. The bill was
supported by pro-choice activists because it tallied with their pro-abortion stand. Only the Nationalist Opposition voted against the Bill at second reading in Parliament ; all Government members of Parliament slavishly voted in favour, in spite of their beliefs and widespread national protest against the Bill.
The new provisions are a virtual unconditional surrender by the Government. In the original Bill a medical intervention could take place when a woman’s health (not only life) was in danger. Now that can only happen if such medical complication creates a danger to one’s health which can lead to loss of life. There was no condition in the original Bill that no medical intervention could be made if the unborn child was viable. Now medical intervention to save the life of the mother is covered with a provision to deliver the unborn child when the child is viable and for the child to receive care as per current medical (paediatric) practice according to the gestational age. There was no form of scrutiny to gauge whether a medical intervention was necessary under the original Bill. Now , except in cases of immediate life-saving emergencies, any medical intervention has to be authorised by a team of three medical experts, , when a life-threatening health risk is present, has to take place in a licensed hospital. There was no “necessity “ requirement in the original Bill. There is now in the new provisions. .
Whom are we to thank for this new turn of events? I believe that we should be grateful to the firm stand taken by our President. As Head of State , in the words of British journalist and essayist Walter Bagehot , a head of state is there to warn , advise and encourage. President Vella certainly advised. He indeed did encourage a common sense solution, and warned of drastic consequences if the Bill remained as it was. Thanks should also go to former President Coleiro Preca who, without shedding her Labour Party sympathies, called a spade a spade and vehemently defended the right to life of the unborn. The Nationalist Opposition steadfastly and unanimously opposed the Bill tooth and nail with all its members
in the legislature delivering addresses explaining how the original Bill was introducing abortion by stealth. It has now been proved to have been right.
It is preposterous for Government to now claim merit for doing a 360 degrees u-turn. It has withdrawn the original abortion provision to the extent that it covers the Prudente case with the same outcome, when the same case made the media headlines and was used by the pro-abortion lobby to further its agenda. Following the sworn testimony of the obstetricians who were taking care of Mrs. Prudente , and published in the media , it transpired that Mrs. Prudente’ s life was never at risk because she had developed none of the potential complications associated with her condition. Her vital signs were being monitored as was her baby. The doctors did not terminate the pregnancy at that point because it was not necessary and her life was not in danger. Had her parameters changed the baby would have been delivered . That is still the position under the new proposed provisions. The pro-life camp works in the interest of life, both lives matter. The life of the mother takes precedence if that is what the mother wishes, but all attempts should be made wherever possible to save a viable child.
If any further proof was needed that these new provisions were the fruit of the successful lobbying of the pro-life camp, this was provided to us by the “dismay” expressed by pro-choice activists at the new proposals. They have seen their cherished provisions regarding termination of pregnancy for health reasons being abandoned by Government following widespread popular pressure.
This entire saga teaches us a significant lesson; namely that when civil society unites on a particular cause, in this case a pro-life stand, victory can be achieved in spite of Government’s majority in Parliament. (Tonio Borg)