Open letter to the Prime Minister - from a Dad
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
Dear Hon Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela,
As I write this letter to you, I am noticing the bullying tactics of a section of our society, attempting to undermine your government’s proposal to amend the laws surrounding abortion; a common healthcare procedure in the entirety of the European Union, except for Malta.
Dr Abela, you and I share little in common. I forgot when was the last time I went to a gym and though I am trained in ethics, this shares little with law and politics. But one profound thing that we share is that we are both fathers of a young girl on their way to adulthood.
I loved my daughter from the very first time I saw her ultrasound scan and she was nothing more than a line on a blurry screen. I am sure that you may have had a similar experience of elation. Yet we need to understand that this is not the same story for many people. For many people, pregnancies can be a cause of dread, anxiety, mental health problems, not to mention medical problems like the case of Andrea Prudente.
As a father, I am extremely worried, if I have to raise my daughter in a country where if she is miscarrying and there is certainty of the foetus not being viable, then doctors will have to wait until my daughter’s life is severely at risk before they evacuate her uterus. Why would they do such a thing? Why would they put our loved ones at risk?
The answer is their personal beliefs.
The people who are attempting to guilt you into making a redundant and useless amendment are talking about “proportionality” which is their way of saying they want EVERYONE to believe that in such instances, the value of the foetus should be considered the same as the value of the mother’s life and her rights. THEY…want you to force this idea on everyone else.
So even though we know that the miscarriage is inevitable, the doctors are forced to wait until the woman is in a direct life-risking situation, to satisfy some people’s need to impose their values on others. Don’t people have the right to be free from torture and mistreatment? Isn’t forcing a woman to have her health worsen to the point of risking losing her life, to satisfy a belief system, a torturous treatment? It is diabolical and tyrannical and no modern democracy should be in the business of doing this to our daughters with the power of the criminal code.
But I ask, we who do not have Andrea Prudente’s foreign insurance policy that enables us to travel to get the needed abortion, what are we to do? Should I save up an emergency abortion fund for my daughter just in case this happens to her? Because I actually know people who did and they actually made use of these funds; their daughters being one of the 400 or so women yearly who get an abortion in secret. Should this be what Malta is about?
How we value our unborn is our choice to make and this view should not be imposed on others. Whatever the zealots might say, I do not believe that an embryo or a foetus is just a clump of cells, but I am not going to risk my daughter’s life, her health or the quality of her life for a non sentient embryo or foetus. They are not equal neither at law, nor morally or scientifically. Why do I say so?
Dr Abela, imagine if there is a clinic that is on fire. On one far side there is a frozen canister with 500 frozen embryos. On the other far side there is a 5 year old girl needing rescue. You can only save one or the other. Of course – you would save the 5 year old girl who is about to be burnt alive. Not even 500 embryos would sway a sane person to let a 5 year old girl get burnt alive.
So that is why, when a Brazilian 10 year old girl was raped by her family member and made pregnant, she got an abortion because the pregnancy was a threat to her health and a risk to her life. The doctors did not wait until she was dying to give her an abortion; because the value of a living girl and woman is greater than that of a foetus who doesn’t even have a working nervous system yet. So forcing women through law, to value the foetus differently, is just authoritarian imposition of belief, which should not be what our country is about and what our healthcare system is about.
We should learn from our friends in Ireland. Andrea Prudente was in a similar situation to what Savita Halappanavar was in. Savita died with an infection because the Irish hospital, due to the law in Ireland being similar to what we have now, procrastinated the treatment and the evacuation of the uterus. She was not lucky enough to have been flown to a country where she could get the abortion. The HSE report specifically said that the restrictive criminalisation of abortion was a contributing factor to her death. We should not wait until anyone’s daughter in Malta becomes the statistic to bring about the change in abortion laws like Ireland did after this case.
We are not in the shoes of people who need to get an abortion. Andrea Prudente is just one case. People have been belittling mental health. Many have no idea what it means to be pregnant and suicidal for example. Many have no idea of what it means to be suicidal at all, let alone due to a pregnancy. What about women that take certain medications and cannot get pregnant and then do so by mistake? What about women who have a phobia of pregnancy? What if a woman gets pregnant by her abuser or rapist? What about a trans man who has not yet transitioned fully and is a victim of corrective rape practises and is pregnant? (Trans persons are some of the most vulnerable to suicide within the LGBTIQ community already)
Many might say that these are extreme or rare cases – but should we wait until we have someone’s daughter or son be a statistic before we do the right thing at law?
Many would also say – there are so many things a woman can do to prevent a pregnancy or she should just not have sex. Even though this is nothing but a facile and simplistic argument, there is but one answer to this – the state should not be in the business of controlling the morality of sex through law. The state should not be in the business of punishing women and doctors for a failed condom, or for forgetting to take her pill on a day, or for having had gastric flu or taken some antibiotics thus reducing the efficacy of her contraceptive pill, or for a failure of her IUD, or for not being able to find a morning after pill on time because some pharmacists refuse to stock it. For many women, a pregnancy is a punishment, not a blessing, and I do not believe the state should have the power to impose this punishment on our daughters for the reasons above. The state should not have the power to make my daughter anxious and suicidal and have her undergo post traumatic stress and a massive guilt trip from a belief system she is not necessarily part of.
Abortion is and should always be a private matter for a pregnant person, between them and their medical carers. We should trust both doctors and women to do the right thing in their best interest without using the law to treat women like nothing more than an incubator on two legs.
There is a reason why I never went into politics. I understand that politics is an art of compromise and I also understand as you do, the importance of having one’s hands constantly feeling the population’s pulse. But I was also once told that politics is also about what people feel when they put their head on the pillow at night. In Malta, I fear for my daughter’s reproductive health. If I were to be in a political position and have to choose between my daughter’s health and public opinion, I would choose my daughter’s health. Hence why I will never go into politics. I could not ever compromise on that principle.
I find it shameful that the opposition, the church, and other conservatives are putting you in this same position. They do not realise that Malta is a pariah – an outcast of the international community with regards to women’s reproductive healthcare. Shouldn’t that make us question our country’s position? Could it be that we are right and everyone else is wrong? Are we going to raise our daughters in a country where their freedoms, rights and health are safeguarded as in every other European country?
The choice is yours and your government's Dr. Abela.
A fellow Dad,