While the world is gripped by fear and uncertainty in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most draconian measures are being imposed in an attempt to curb its spread and save lives. Workers in essential services, especially those in the medical field, place themselves at risk to save others. 

It is therefore with great sadness and dismay that one hears that New Zealand exploited the current climate of tension, anxiety and instability associated with the COVID-19 pandemic to rush through an extreme abortion law without even consulting public opinion.

Similar manoeuvring is going on in the UK, with the powerful abortion lobby determined to hijack the Domestic Abuse Bill and introduce abortion on demand till birth.

It is ironic and distressing that in the Western world that once boasted a Christian heritage, the assault of life intensifies while the spectre of death from COVID-19 paralyses so many people with the premonition of death.

This contradiction was driven home by the recent disappointing decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

It stifled the attempt of two Swedish midwives to seek redress, challenging their country’s court verdict that denied them the right to work because, as a matter of conscience, they refused to be involved with abortions.

The ECHR played the legalistic game by deciding their case was inadmissible, and therefore sidestepped their responsibility to address the issue of conscientious objection. What is particularly galling is that this ruling was upheld by the three judges, one of them Maltese, Lorraine Schembri Orland.

Corrosive developments that curtail freedom of conscience are increasing

As this decision was unanimous, made public on March 12, the ECHR scotched the possibility of the midwives opting for an appeal to the Grand Chamber of the same court to have such a grave issue reviewed by a broader panel of judges.

To quote the court: “According to the Swedish legislation, employers had the right to request that an employee perform all the tasks which naturally fell within the scope of the work in question. The requirement to take part in abortions was thus ‘prescribed by law’ and pursued the legitimate aim of protecting health since it guaranteed an effective access to abortions in Sweden.”

This committee decision made a mockery of the very purpose of a court which is meant to uphold Human Rights by stating: “… that the interference with the applicant’s freedom of religion was also proportionate and there was thus no violation of Article 9 of the Convention.”

However, Article 9 of the Human Rights Act of 1998 specifically states that one has a right to freedom of thought, belief and religion.

One would expect that the whole purpose of a Human Rights Tribunal is to safeguard fundamental human dignity when the national law denies it. In short, it is there to challenge unjust national laws.

Fundamental rights, enshrined in the Human Rights Act, not only endorse the rights to religious belief and freedom of expression but also uphold the right to life.

Such a ruling sends a message that any medical professional who respects human life may risk forfeiting his career, job and livelihood. This is a severe price to pay for living in accordance with one’s conscience.

Sadly, these corrosive developments that curtail freedom of conscience are increasing and abortion is not the only issue. In 2016, in Britain, a country that vaunts itself on being a bastion of freedom, Magistrate Richard Page was sacked.

He had expressed his opinion that a child does best with both a mother and a father when considering an application for adoption by a same-sex couple.

In today’s ‘Brave New World’, the public space for debate and disagreement is ever shrinking and one is no longer permitted to question the political status quo, much less offer an opinion.

Let us not be fooled that Malta will be spared. The sinister interests promoting this intolerant scenario are well entrenched. Will our politicians and intelligentsia wake up? Time will tell.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us