The abortion (non)-debate

Malta is the only country in the EU where abortion remains illegal, and is still a taboo subject for many. At the same time, hundreds of women leave Malta each year to have an abortion overseas, usually in the UK or Italy

Malta’s twelve-year experience as an EU member is undoubtedly positive. In fact, today surveys show that the large majority of the Maltese people are in favour of Malta staying in the EU.

In these twelve years, Malta has changed in many ways with many of these changes – such as the decrease in insularity – being a direct result of EU membership

Talk about European values is always vague: in our minds abortion is not part of what we would describe as European values. Others think differently.

But first a personal declaration. I do not agree with abortion as a matter of principle. However, I do not agree that the subject should not even be debated as many seem to believe.

Malta is the only country in the EU where abortion remains illegal, and is still a taboo subject for many. At the same time, hundreds of women leave Malta each year to have an abortion overseas, usually in the UK or Italy. Others buy abortion pills online.

Rumours have it that others resort to dangerous methods to procure abortion. This was certainly the situation many years ago, but I seriously doubt if today there are women who take this risk when safe abortion is available in next door Sicily.

Recently Herman Grech tried to give the abortion debate a more prominent place in society by writing and staging a play (De-terminated) that presented both sides of the debate. Grech claims he did not write the play to campaign for either side.

As Grech himself was reported as saying: “In Malta there are only two sides to choose from… everything’s yes or no, there are no shades of grey.”

One character in Grech’s play is typically Maltese. He is a man who was sexually abused as a child, became promiscuous, later coerced his pregnant girlfriend into terminating their child, then found God, and now campaigns against abortion.

Unlike many others who insist on remaining anonymous, Lara Dimitrijevic, founder and director of the Women’s Rights Foundation (WRF), does not fear negative publicity in her regard and constantly calls for the decriminalisation of abortion in Malta. She argues that it is a breach of the fundamental human rights based on gender discrimination, because it’s targeting women and girls. As if it is legal for males to have abortions!

On the other side there is the Life Network Foundation that insists that the subject should not even be debated as this would make it socially acceptable.

Given this background, I was quite surprised last Thursday when I discovered that the GWU daily ‘l-orizzont’ had given front page prominence to the ‘news’ that there is a Facebook page ‘Break the Taboo Malta’ that gives prominence to stories of Maltese women who decided to carry out an abortion.

In the front-page story was headed ‘We should never judge those women’ (‘Qatt m’għandna niġġudikaw lil dawn in-nisa’). This was a quote from one of the persons behind the page and who was interviewed for the story.

The report mentions stories that were highlighted in the page – a woman who had a cancerous growth while pregnant, a rape victim and a 17-year old girl who got preganant inadvertantly.

The Facebook page itself, declares: ‘We are pro-choice and non-judgmental. Our aim is to bring to light Malta’s abortion reality.’

It descibes its content as: ‘a collection of experiences from Maltese women about their abortions.’ The people behind the page go on to declare: ‘We would like everyone to gain insight into the various circumstances and situations surrounding abortion decisions. In Malta abortion is illegal under all circumstances, even if the woman’s life is in danger or if a woman is pregnant from rape. These are real women’s stories, posted anonymously out of fear of negative social repercussions.’

The story on l-orizzont, however does not indicate that the people behind the page are pro-choice, which is an indirect way of saying pro-abortion since pro-choice means giving a woman the right to choose whether to carry out an abortion.

What really bothered me no end was the fact that the moderators of this pro-choice page did not want l-orizzont to publish their names and the paper respected their wish. They remained anonymous.

Those who want to break the taboo do not have the courage to show their names! Seems to me, that is no way to break a taboo…

So much for an open and free debate on the subject.

Immigration and the economy

Following the publication of my piece on Malta’s immigration based economy two weeks ago, which was subsequently published as a blog on this newspaper’s website, a well known and respected labour-leaning economist posted a comment in which he ‘proved’ that attributing Malta’s current economic success to the input of foreign workers is fallacious.

I do not normally reply to comments on my opinion pieces, but this time I am going to make an exception.

The argument put forward in the comment rested on a comparison between the percentage increase of the population with the percentage increase in GDP. I am sorry to say that this is misleading simply because the increase in our population was not across the board but mainly an increase in the working population.

A better comparison would have been between the percentage increase of gainfully employed with the percentage increase in GDP. This will lead to the conclusion that the increase in GDP is mostly due to the increase in the working population. This supports my contention that was actually an interpretaion of the argument made by the leader of the Opposition when he addressed the Ernst and Young conference and in which he went into greater detail when he later spoke in Parliament when replying to this year’s Budget speech.

No amount of excuses can hide the truth that the current success of the Maltese economy – that Joseph Muscat boasts so much about – is mostly the result of the influx of foreign workers since our EU membership, a phenomenon that the Labour Party predicted as one of the more frightful negatives of EU membership.

The current real political question, however, still remains whether Malta’s size can afford a reckless uncontrolled continuous increase in its working population or whether we should start thinking of intelligent policies that would avoid the situation from getting out of hand.

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