Martin Scicluna’s contribution (Times of Malta, April 22) to the abortion debate commits the common error of arguing that abortion is a matter of conscience, in the same way as one can hold views on contraception. The difference is that, in the wilful termination of pregnancy, there is another important dimension, the life of a human being.

It is immaterial whether one is dealing with an actual human being (which I believe an unborn child is) or with a foetus who is ‘only’ a potential human being. As Prof. Peter Serracino Inglott used to say: the fact a seed is not a tree but only a potential one does not justify its destruction.

The ‘religious’ argument put forward by pro-choice thinkers is the following: “The Catholic Church condemns abortion, I am not a Catholic, therefore I am to be allowed to terminate a pregnancy through abortion.” The basic fault in this thinking is that abortion is condemned by the Catholic Church because it is wrong, and not that it is wrong because it is condemned by the said Church.

Cannot an atheist be in favour of life? Religious belief – such as the Christian  notion of every human being created in Gods’ image and likeness – strengthens the view that an unborn child should not be destroyed. But even on the purely rational level – without any support from any faith or religion – one can reach the same conclusion.

The argument put forward by Scicluna is dangerous because it is attractively simple and enticing but fundamentally wrong and mistaken. It may lead some to say: I am personally against abortion, because it goes against my religious beliefs, but I cannot prevent others from seeking recourse to such a measure…as if the right to life belongs only to babies conceived by Catholic parents!

Ronald Reagan used to say “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.” That is an undeniable truth. The sum of objections to abortion can be summarised in such a simple but eloquent statement.  Indeed, medical evidence is proving that human life is present at the earliest stages of pregnancy which is why pro-choice activists nowadays rarely refer to medical evidence any more but rely more on ‘legal rights’ of privacy and control over one’s own body.

The fact of the matter, however, is that if within your body there lies a separate life, you cannot state that you have the right to do what you like with your own physical body, because part of you is composed of a separate human life.

 Calling to one’s aid freedom of conscience to justify abortion would be similar to saying that, for instance, one is in favour of refusing blood transfusion to one’s children because it goes against one’s religious belief. When religious beliefs strangle the most fundamental right, the right to life, it is the latter which prevails not the former.

The main objection to the recent decision by a panel of three judges of the European Court of Human Rights declaring inadmissible a courageous stand taken by Swedish midwives who opposed taking part in an abortion intervention was that, in their wisdom, these three judges refused to allow the case to be debated on its merits.

Abortion is condemned by the Catholic Church because it is wrong; it is not wrong because it is condemned by the Church- Tonio Borg

Former European Court judge Vincent Degaetano described this decision in an interview in the international media as “a dangerous precedent”. Until now, the court has refused to take sides on the abortion issue allowing abortion laws to stand in Council of Europe countries, but also respecting those  countries  who either have stringent laws on abortion or who prohibit abortion altogether. But the right of conscientious objection was never put into question. Now unfortunately it seems to have been so put.

What strikes me in the entire history of the abortion debate is the spectacular conversion of principal pro-abortion promoters to the pro-life camp. The plaintiff in the notorious Roe v Wade judgment by the US Supreme Court (which legalised abortion in the US) in 1973 crossed over to the pro-life camp.

Dr Anthony Levantino, a well-known abortion practitioner who carried out 1,600 abortions, is another convert. When addressing a conference last year in Malta, he described how he used to check through an inventory method, following the extraction of the foetus from the womb, whether both feet and hands had been pulled out – otherwise the intervention could prove lethal. It was at one of these  moments – without the need of any religious or divine intervention – that he realised that what he was doing was wrong.

Life Network in Malta has embarked on a campaign to protect life from conception. Headed by the indefatigable Miriam Sciberras, it has not only opposed abortion by words but also deeds. It runs a centre in Mosta where pregnant women who were thinking of performing an abortion outside Malta were helped to have their child instead. They are cared for lovingly at the centre by specialists in medicine and psychology. Already 20 innocent lives have been saved in this way.

This is what we all should do; fight against the culture of death and, like Life Network, promote the culture of life.

Tonio Borg is a former European Commissioner.

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