“Abela and Fearne are against abortion”, “There was a Nationalist election candidate who supported abortion”, “Do you think that none of those who were demonstrating in Valletta will not do an abortion if they need it?” These were three reactions from different Labour supporters who wrote on Facebook to defend the prime minister’s stand on abortion.

The first one is an outright denial. If the prime minister is against abortion, the reasoning would go, then the bill presented in parliament cannot be a bill introducing abortion. The other two attack the credi­bility of those saying that this is an abortion bill, making it easier for them to support it.

It is so clear that the government wants to introduce abortion that the number of those affirming this include Joe Brincat, a former Labour minister and deputy leader of the PL, President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and the current President of the Republic. If you are not persuaded by these Labour grandees, why not ask the members of the pro-abortion lobby? All say that the Robert Abela/Chris Fearne bill is an abortion bill.

How can one explain that there are people who do believe what is manifestly untrue?

This happened with Donald Trump’s supporters who believe that their champion won the 2020 election, although there is not a tiny shred of evidence that he did. The supporters of Jair Bolsonaro do the same. Like Trump and Bolsonaro, our PM knows how propaganda could be effective.

The PM knows that the pro-abortion lobby is supporting him so they are out of the need-to-persuade equation. His problem is with the core-Labour vote, which is against abortion. His task to persuade is not excessively difficult.

We prefer to believe things that are in consonance with our established positions. Having them challenged would create dissonance; something that we do prefer to live without. In addition, confirmation bias plays an important role – we tend to look for information that supports what we suspect and discount what contradicts what we want to be true. To persuade the anti-abortionists among his core vote, the PM is shrewdly using strategies based on psychological theories.

The first is called the illusionary truth effect. This describes how, when we hear the same false information repeated again and again, we often come to believe it is true.

Repetition is very powerful. The research done by Lisa Fazio’s team from Vanderbilt University showed that the illusion of truth effect worked just as strongly also with those who know that something is not true.

Even in this case, repetition may make it sound true. The PM kept on repeating that he is against abortion and that this bill is not about abortion. Then he directed his MPs to repeat the same ad nauseam.

The illusionary truth effect was first identified academically in a 1977 study at Villanova University and Temple University but Nazi supremo Joseph Goebbels, to whom is attributed the phrase “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, had perfected its use a long time before.

To address those who usually supported him but were now suspicious or perhaps certain that he was not telling the truth about abortion, the PM used a second psychological theory.

Research shows that when people’s political beliefs are strong, they imagine that today’s lies can become true in the future and were more likely to excuse the present falsehood. To reap this disposition to the maximum, Abela started repeatedly telling people he would change the bill to make it clear to everyone this was not a bill about abortion.

The health minister, in a press conference, spoke about the amendments that would now save viable babies but did not publish them. He was only interested in getting good headlines based on what he said. Newbie and pro-abortion journalists obliged.

The Prudente case was the casus belli to justify all of this- Fr Joe Borg

A closer look at what the health minister said shows that the government is still determined to legalise abortion. The only ‘concession’ seems to be that abortion will be legal just short of 24 weeks. Babies under that age can now be aborted if there is a danger to a woman’s health. Google an image of a 23-week-old baby to see who will be binned.

The Prudente case was the casus belli to justify all of this. However, medical consultants giving evidence under oath in court tore to bits the web of lies and deceit that manipulators of Andrea Prudente’s predicament spun. Medical consultants testified that Prudente’s life was never in danger; that babies in a similar situation had a 79.2 per cent survival rate and that a woman hospitalised for the same condition and at the same time as Prudente now has a healthy baby.

This is not the first time that a web of lies and deceit was weaved to trick and manipulate people.

I am sure some readers may remember Helena Dalli laughing while telling an international audience how the Partit Laburista conned the Maltese about the introduction of gay marriage. Google the video to refresh your memory.

Malta is suffering a serious democratic deficit as the government controls several media houses, influences others by advertising and floods the social media with its propaganda. Getting the opposite message across is difficult but the pope’s January 2023 message to ambassadors should encourage the pro-life lobby to drive on:

“Today [life] is jeopardised… all too often, even in the mother’s womb, through the promotion of an alleged ‘right to abortion’. No one, however, can claim rights over the life of another human being, especially one who is powerless and thus completely defenceless.

“For this reason, I appeal to the consciences of men and women of goodwill, particularly those having political responsibilities, to strive to safeguard the rights of those who are weakest.”

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.