Thousands of people took to the streets on Sunday to protest against a legal amendment that will allow doctors to perform an abortion to protect a woman’s life or health.

The organisers claimed 20,000 people attended the demonstration. Thousands of ‘pro-life’ people got off their sofas to stand up against a potential legal amendment – a hypothetical situation in which an embryo or fetus is aborted when a woman’s life or health is in danger.

You don’t see this type of rage about anything else in Malta. Not for the 20-year-old who was crushed to death under a collapsed building last Saturday, not for the countless women who were killed, not for Miriam Pace, not for the thousands of migrants dying at sea, not for Lassana Cisse who was allegedly shot by two Maltese soldiers for the colour of his skin and not even for Daphne.

There are plenty of things these 20,000 people could be mad about: negligence in construction, rampant corruption, the total lack of environmental protection, the number of fatal accidents caused by drunk-driving, the authority’s apathetic attitude towards domestic violence or the justice system that allows murder suspects to be granted bail for over a year.

They could protest against police officers abducting and beating people up, the dozens of child sexual abuse cases within the Catholic Church, elderly people facing abuse and disappearing from care homes, the pathetic state of psychiatric care or the assassination of a journalist by their own government.

“It is insulting that, over the past decade of my life, I have seen my country go to shit,” a Master’s student at the University of Malta said on condition of anonymity. “It is literally next to unliveable at this point. There are no natural areas, there are no public spaces.” She is among the 93 per cent of youths who believe Malta’s environment is getting worse.

“And then they’re going to come out and protest against this? They’re not angry when all these child sex abuse cases come out? They’re not angry when migrants die at sea? They’re not angry when women are raped, murdered or shot in broad daylight?”

They aren’t. Because they do not care about life. In fact, nobody ‘pro-life’ in this country cares about life unless it threatens their Catholic faith.

These people advocate for the unborn because, as methodist pastor Dave Barnhart said, “the unborn are a convenient group of people to advocate for”. The unborn are not people yet; they have never made any mistakes and they make no demands of you. The unborn are blank slates, innocent and pure and you can protect them without going against your prejudices or biases.

But, as soon as they are born, your biases come into effect. When the unborn become migrants who decide to come to Malta, people don’t care and it is their own fault they are drowning. And when the unborn become women, people no longer care because they got themselves into a nasty situation and it’s their own fault they are raped and killed.

You don’t see this type of rage about anything else in Malta

So, in order to protect women, we need to stop being sexist. To protect children from systemic sex abuse, we must scrutinise the Catholic Church. To protect migrants from drowning, we need to fight racism. To protect people from dying under collapsing buildings, we need to accept that the government is corrupt and that politicians care more about money than its citizens.

Protecting the unborn allows people to feel morally superior without having to do any sort of self-reflection or be critical of their own prejudices and biases. It allows them to stand for something without giving up on any comforts they have in life because the unborn are a demographic that doesn’t exist yet.

The Maltese manage to protect stray cats because all you need to do is spend a few euros and throw cheap cat food on the floor to feel like a good Christian. In the same way, they manage to protect the unborn because they aren’t subject to xenophobic prejudices yet. These people take to the streets to protect the most archaic abortion laws in the continent and their mindsets are stuck in the past.

It is the loud voices of this grey-haired generation that makes the Maltese youth wants to leave.

It is no surprise that 60 per cent of Malta’s youth want to leave the country. It is no surprise that our friends with ambitions have either left already or are planning to. It is no surprise that everyone with an education or common sense seeks a better life abroad.

It is because of attitudes like this. Because people would rather protect the unborn, who don’t even exist yet, from a hypothetical situation where abortion is fully legalised rather than do something about the actual problems in this country.

These people are not pro-life. They are virtue-signalling and pretending to be good Catholics when people die on their watch every single day. But, in reality, Maltese ‘pro-life’ people only care about the lives of two things: unborn babies and stray cats.

Nina Attard Montalto is a pro-choice activist and MSc student in cognitive science at the University of Malta.

Belle de Jong is a journalist, pro-choice activist and mental-health advocate in Brussels and Malta.

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