The saga brought about by the recent case of a threatened miscarriage in a 16-week-old pregnancy belonging to a North American couple is obviously being used by some to push forward a pro-abortion agenda.

However, if we examine the rationale behind the reasoning being used, we find the fundamental concept in American jurisprudence (which has now been overturned) where one considers human relations and law from a simply atomised individualist perspective.

‘Roe v Wade’ had been decided by Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun et al as embodying the American concept of individual choice and freedom and likened a pregnancy to a thief entering a house in the middle of the night, with the individual owner retaining the right to self-defence with respect to his/her individual body.

Rationality has seen the reversal of this concept in the US because one cannot really think of the relationship between the mother/father and their developing child in the womb in this atomised way. There is in this development of pregnancy a relational entity between the child and the parents and it would be rational to develop jurisprudence along this line of thinking.

The developing embryo, foetus, child is an embodied human being (not a clump of disorganised cells), a member of species Homo Sapiens, passing through the early stages of a coordinated and directional development and lies at a phase of life where solidarity is expected by the family and society, as we all go through periods of illness and ageing during our life and expect solidarity to be shown to us by those around us.

So, in effect, the existence of an embodied human being and our relations with that being should regulate the way we deal with these cases. The European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice (and now the US Supreme Court) have both concluded that there is no right to abortion. There is, however, a right to life.

Embodied human beings from conception are, therefore, individual embodied human beings who are also individual members of a rational nature.

The Maltese Constitution of our founding fathers and mothers leaves no doubt as to what pattern of personhood and interrelational concepts it wants the republic to be built on. Surely not on those of atomised individualism but those of a republic founded on interrelational solidarity.

The various articles of our constitution and laws all show that the Maltese people cherish concepts of social inter-relational care at all stages of life and not that of atomised individualism.

The developing embryo, foetus, child is an embodied human being, a member of species Homo Sapiens- Michael Asciak

“Ħadd ma jista’ jiġi ipprivat mill-ħajja.” “No person may be denied the right to life.” This is the fundamental concept of those who care about the lives of other people. However, it is supported by all the other individual legal and social rights which spring from the solidarity of interrelational goods. Maltese society and law care about people as they pass through all the stages of life and strive to provide support for all human beings during these stages.

The medical situation I refer to at the beginning of the article is not a new case. During pregnancy, there may arise issues which impact on the life of the mother and the developing embryo/foetus/child that is the developing embodied human being in utero.

Maltese doctors, conscious of the obligations of humanity and the law, have always striven to conserve the lives of both where this is possible and give every human life a chance to live.

If, however, any serious threats to the life of the mother ever materialise, all doctors know that there are ethical and legally accepted provisions which allow the doctor to surgically or medically save the mother’s life by double effect, or early induction using proportionate reason where the outcome is indeed foreseen but not intended.

We have dealt with ectopic pregnancies surgically or medically in this way for ages. We have had cases of uterine cancer in pregnant women where we have had to surgically intervene as well. None of these concepts go against the spirit of the constitution nor allow the life of the mother to be in any danger.

We must decide whether we want to create an environment of political and social solidarity or one of atomised individualism in a vacuum from the rest of society.

Michael Asciak is a doctor and senior lecturer in the Institute of Applied Science, MCAST.

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