Abortion – self-defence

I refer to the letter by Christopher Barbara (November 25) wherein he asserted that Malta’s code makes therapeutic abortion a crime, independently of whether the abortion was performed to save the mother’s life or to safeguard her health or for other reasons.

My intervention is not to be construed as being against or in favour of a change in abortion legislation but only as a response to Barbara’s rather ill-informed sortie in the field of law.

Barbara’s reasoning falls foul of one of the most fundamental principles of law, basic ABC for first-year law students since Roman times: it is improper, without looking at the entirety of a law, to pass judgment by relying on any one isolated article of that law (in civile est, etc.).

It is perfectly correct that article 241 of the criminal code makes the performance of any abortion a criminal offence. But article 241 cannot be taken in isolation; it must be read and applied in conjunction with other clear articles of the criminal code, such as, for example, article 223.

These articles, which Barbara ignores but which the courts keep constantly in mind, take good care of his objection.

Where an ongoing pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, or puts her health in manifest danger, then the principles of lawful self-defence immediately apply.

Article 223: “No offence is committed when a homicide or a bo­dily harm is imposed by actual necessity either in lawful self-defence or in the lawful defence of another person.” If the embryo or the foetus is threatening the life or health of the mother, then abortion is equivalent to self-defence, enshrined in the criminal code. This is in accordance with the doctrine of double effect, expressed in philosophy of law or, more commonly, in application of the principles of self-defence.

That explains why never, in memory, have terminations of pregnancy, which are performed openly and routinely in public hospitals and clinics, been criminally prosecuted, if carried out for ‘self-defence’ therapeutic reasons.

I invite Barbara to share with readers one single case where the courts, or the state’s prosecution services, have applied his cramped, one-dimensional and “improper” reading of the criminal law, rather than the obvious, reasonable, humane, ‘self-defence’ view.

I don’t believe he will find one.

Giovanni Bonello – Valletta

Wishful thinking?

Photo: Chris Sant FournierPhoto: Chris Sant Fournier

Never before in the past 50 years has the Maltese public been so vociferously up in arms against the construction frenzy vis-à-vis the environment as in the present.

Currently, the issue is more controversial than sleaze, corruption, crime and the other social maladies borne in these islands.

But being vociferous is certainly not enough. The greater part of the public is oblivious to the fact that, albeit indirectly, it is aiding and abetting the unscrupulous developers. Why and how?

Simply by their patronage of the abusive businesses.

People still use fuel service stations built on ODZ land because they are convenient to them; they do not plan ahead to fill up elsewhere.

Similarly, others express their fierce resentment when a building or reconstruction permit for a restaurant that would be a blatant eyesore is granted. Yet, they do not boycott the establishment once it is opened.

On the contrary, some will even want to be among the first to “try out the new place” so that they can brag that they “have been” already, and expound on the fine culinary judgement of their new experience.

As yet, there is no light or hope at the end of that idio­matic tunnel, that the Planning Authority et al will ever revert to protecting our environment without exceptions, fear or favour.

It now rests with the public to converge and create the deterrent by wisely using their discretion and custom to seek and select services.

A question frequently posed in business studies is: what should be the prime objective of a business?

My preferred multiple choice answer is to create a customer. With good management, everything should fall into place once a business attracts clients.

But deep down I feel that we will never nurture the culture to sort ourselves out in an astute, non-confrontational way by not being that customer.

It is only my wishful thinking.

Victor Pisani – Santa Luċija

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