The politics of ‘life’ - Godfrey Farrugia
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The politics of ‘life’ - Godfrey Farrugia

Every so often, political entities and NGOs instigate beginning-of-life issues for public debate. Some do so with a hidden agenda. Political statements pre-empting a populist outcry are not rare. Such was the case of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks.

The Prime Minister’s reported reply to the Commissioner’s comment is not reassuring at all. He knows that once the Embryo Protection Act is amended to include frozen embryos, the legal gateway is open to embracing all unthinkable options.

I have often been publicly upfront in defence of the rights of human life. I often ponder on the arguments brought forward by some political friends who express a pro-choice opinion. Let me be clear from the outset. I am in favour of the emancipation of women and I hold a very strong opinion about equality among genders.

Let’s suppose, for argument’s sake, that we omit from our argumentation the undisputed, scientific fact that human life begins at fertilisation. Consider balancing out the right to life of the unborn against the right of the pregnant mother to safeguard her personal autonomy and development. To which side does the balance tilt?

Undeniably, there is a strong consensus among European states that regardless of the facts presented by science, the right to life of the mother and her well-being are more valuable than the right to life of the unborn.

The World Health Organisation holds the same opinion and prioritises female reproductive rights over foetal rights. So does the World Medical Association, but with more caution.

I often ask myself: does this mean that the direction being set by these entities is right, and that our Maltese law is wrong?

I find it very difficult to comprehend how certain states grant abortion in one stage of prenatal development and protect the foetus in the next phase, or how community pharmacists dispense emergency contraception as an over-the-counter medicine when research shows that certain brands have an undoubted abortifacient effect.

I find it very difficult to comprehend how certain states grant abortion in one stage of prenatal development and protect the foetus in the next phase

The intentional destruction of life is capricious if we commoditise it. Certainly, abortion is not a reproductive right in family planning.

When a woman enters my clinic and tells me that she may be pregnant or is pregnant, I examine two patients and work towards the well-being of two humans.

Every pregnant woman has two sets of human rights in one body, hers and that of her child. The optimal well-being of the pregnant mother and that of the unborn have both to be safeguarded.

These are issues of life and death for those with a voice and for those without one. Who am I to judge? Who am I to imprison a woman’s psyche or to resort to senseless killing of lives?

I have always endeavoured to protect life, not by condemnation but by education and accessible support. Ultimately, I am obliged to help pregnant women respect and nurture life.

After all, this conforms to the medical profession’s Hippocratic Oath and to the Medical Council’s Ethics of Medical Practitioners: “A doctor must always bear in mind the importance of preserving life from the time of conception till death.”

We all agree that a newborn child has a right to life... and we thus have an obligation to refrain from harming children. Similarly, we have an obligation not to harm an unborn child. Irrelevant of the stage in question, I, as a family doctor and a politician, have a duty to avoid harm.

In my opinion the unborn child is a person and has a right to life and other civil rights too. If the State legislates to the contrary it could be viewed as using our legitimate powers to dehumanise humanity, going against the virtues of natural law on which the very foundation of human law is laid.

Other nations have done this, but does that mean that their laws are just laws?

Freedom of thought and opinion, liberty and assembly, are universal rights, but ultimately liberty is the power that we bestow on ourselves. When we maliciously interfere with our very beginning, we are not fulfilling those rights.

Godfrey Farrugia is an MP from the Democratic Party.

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