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Updated | Sports school head defends pro-lifer’s ‘graphic’ PSD abortion lesson

Education ministry looking into ‘very graphic’ videos on abortion shown to sports school students by Life Network leader Miriam Sciberras

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
25 January 2017, 8:14am
Last updated on 25 January 2017, 3:46pm
Sports School Headmaster George Micallef
Sports School Headmaster George Micallef
The headmaster of the national sports school has defended his PSD teacher’s decision to invite pro-lifer Miriam Sciberras to deliver a “very graphic” lesson on abortion to students.

Headmaster George Micallef, also one of Malta’s main football commentators, told MaltaToday that the lesson “was a positive one that taught pro-life values in line with the school’s ethos”. 

“I didn’t plan it myself, but I cannot object to something positive. It was part of the PSD content, and there was no propaganda or political pressure in the lesson.” 

The National Sports School on Monday uploaded a Facebook post – which has since been deleted – to announce that Miriam Sciberras, chairperson of the pro-life NGO Life Network, had delivered a tutorial about “the gift of life” to a group of Form 5 students. 

“Dr Sciberras thoroughly explained what happens from the moment of conception to the moment of implantation and also showed our students very graphic videos of an abortion,” the post read. “She spoke about situations where women might be confused about their current situation. They might think that abortion is an easy option to get rid of all those worries and life-changing events and therefore they might see that abortion is the easy way out to solve their problems. 

“Our students had the time to ask questions and discuss the pros and cons of an abortion. Dr Sciberras provided pro-life options, information and educational materials through messages based on natural law.”

Sciberras, a dentist, has been a vocal critic against abortion, embryo freezing, the morning-after pill, and IVF for lesbians and single mothers.

In a somewhat cautious statement, the education ministry said that it has always instructed schools to deal with sensitive issues “objectively” and added that it will be evaluating the material presented by Sciberras.

When asked why the school invited the leader of a lobby group to deliver the lecture on abortion, instead of for example a scientist, George Micallef said that it was perfectly normal for NGOs to deliver talks on their field of expertise. 

“Would you have had a problem if we had invited BirdLife to deliver a lecture on birds?” he challenged. “Isn’t Miriam Sciberras the leader of a pro-life NGO? So what’s wrong if she speaks to students about pro-life issues?”

Education minister Evarist Bartolo said in a statement that the education authorities will analyze the material that was presented in the PSD lesson.

“The ministry and education directorates have always instructed state schools to teach sensitive subjects like abortion in an objective and age-appropriate manner,” he said. “We will lend an ear to the debate [that the lesson stirred up], while continuing to respect the professionalism and judgement of educators.”

MaltaToday is informed that a number of parents have filed complaints at the education ministry against the graphic nature of the abortion video. An online petition has also been set up, urging education minister Evarist Bartolo to ensure that students receive objective and unbiased sex education.

“By allowing an anti-abortion group to present an inherently one-sided view of sex, reproduction and human life, scholars are prevented from obtaining sufficient and accurate evidence to develop and reach an informed and objective opinion on these issues,” the petition – which has been signed by almost 250 people at the time of writing – reads. 

‘All of society benefits from pro-life investment in kids’ – Gift of Life

Fellow pro-life NGO Gift of Life defended the school’s decision to invite Sciberras to deliver a talk on abortion, arguing that society as a whole stands to benefit from children being given a pro-life education.

“We support Life Network fully in all of its work, especially in their work to provide fact-based, ethical, age-appropriate pro-life education in schools,” GoL said in a Facebook post. “The investment they are making in our youngsters contributes to a better Malta of tomorrow in which all of society benefits.

“We reject the pressure by those very few who may not sympathise with pro-life values who seem to want to censor the facts, ethics and science.”