Abela has ‘made history’, all right... by taking us back to the Middle Ages!

What ‘milestone’? What ‘change’? Because as far as I can see, the only tangible achievement that Abela’s abortion bill can possibly be credited with, is... um... ‘cementing’ precisely the same status quo, that it was originally supposed to ‘disrupt’

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

There was an ad on British television a while back, consisting of a bunch of ‘celebrities’ – the only one I actually remember was Tony Blair: who was probably still Prime Minister, at the time – firing out a bunch of random names at the camera, as though in answer to an unheard question.

In fact, the ad itself didn’t seem to make very much sense, at all... until it got to the ‘punchline’, so to speak: ‘Everyone remembers a good teacher!’

And just like that, everything suddenly fell into place. Not only was the ad itself part of a recruitment drive, within the British education sector; but it also bespoke a universal truth, that no one in his right mind can ever realistically deny.

Because it’s true, you know: people really DO remember the ‘good teachers’ they were fortunate enough to have had (assuming, of course, that they actually had any). And by ‘good teachers’, I don’t necessarily mean the ones who were exceptionally well-versed, in the subjects they were actually employed to teach; nor even the ones who were somehow ‘inspirational’, on matters entirely unrelated to the school curriculum (like Robin Williams in ‘Dead Poets Society’, for example.)

No: I’m referring specifically to those teachers who were ‘good’ at... well, ‘the art of teaching’, if you know what I mean. Like a certain Mr Zahra, for instance; who – using only a torch, an orange, and a knitting needle – somewhow managed to ‘open my eyes’ (during a Year Five Science lesson) to...

... well, ‘how the entire Solar System operates’, I suppose. You know: why there’s ‘light in the daytime’,  and ‘darkness at night’. That sort of thing...

And yes, yes: I know it all seems perfectly obvious, now. But trust me, it didn’t at the time. (So much so, that - and I say this in all sincerity – the only real difference between myself, and a ‘Flat-Earther’, is that: at age seven, I had a Science teacher named Mr Zahra. Those guys evidently didn’t...)

I could go on, of course. Having name-dropped Mr Zahra, it would be remiss of me not to also mention Miss Zammit Mangion (my Form One English teacher: arguably, the only reason you are actually reading this, today); Mr Role (who introduced me to the hitherto-inconceivable notion that ‘learning can actually be FUN’);  and...

...well, I’ll stop there, for now (not for lack of other inspirational teachers to name-drop; but just because this digression has already gone on long enough, as it is.) The bottom line is: it was a certain history teacher I once had, named Prof. Victor Mallia Milanes, who first opened my eyes to...

... what the word ‘history’ actually means: which – to quote his own definition, which I still remember almost 40 years laters – is ‘a synonym for CHANGE.’

And once again: he was perfectly right (even though – being somewhat precocious, aged 16 – I actually argued with him about it, in class). You could almost pick out any of the truly ‘epochal’ events of world history, at random: from the conquests of Alexander The Great; to the Roman Empire, to The French Revolution, and beyond – and you will find that, in each and every case, the historical importance we attach to those events, will be directly proportional to amount of CHANGE, that they actually brought about.

Which also means, by the way, that: when politicians are foolhardy enough make such ‘bold’ – if not, ‘audacious’ - claims, as: ‘We have just made history!’...

... anyone with an understanding of what the word ‘history’ means, would be forgiven for expecting some form of tangible ‘transformation’ – of any kind whatsoever - to the current status quo.

And indeed, this is exactly what Prime Minister Robert Abela seems to think he has actually done, with his government’s (botched) ‘abortion bill’. He didn’t merely say: ‘We have made history’, and stop there. He also added: “Today marks a crucial milestone, as it brings about a substantial change that will disrupt the stagnant status quo in the country...”

Erm.. sorry, but: what the heck is he even on about? What ‘milestone’? What ‘change’? Because as far as I can see, the only tangible achievement that Abela’s abortion bill can possibly be credited with, is... um... ‘cementing’ precisely the same status quo, that it was originally supposed to ‘disrupt’.

It is basically just a bill which acknowledges all the existing medical practices, which are already in place today - woefully inadequate, though we all know they are – and then provides a legal framework, within which those same inadequate practices can simply be continued (albeit ‘legally’, this time), ad aeternum.

And that, I’m afraid, is just another way of saying that: this legal amendment does not – and will not – ‘change’ anything at all, with regard to unsafe abortions in Malta.

For this, we even have the word of Robert Abela himself: who – somewhat unwisely, in my opinion – once again reminded us all about that recent case of a mentally-ill woman, who was prosecuted (and convicted) for terminating her own pregnancy at home.

Abela, we are told, “argued that this case served as a wake-up call for Malta, demonstrating that ‘what we said would never happen has happened.’ [...] The Maltese woman faced charges for undergoing a medical abortion at home, but it was later revealed in court that she suffered from mental health issues and was trapped in an abusive relationship...”

Now: in a way, I regret not having been physically present at that press conference, to ask Robert Abela the most obvious question that immediately arises from his own statement.

But still: I can always ask it now.

Excuse me, but... how does this ‘milestone’ abortion amendment of his, actually address any of the problems raised by that particular case? What tangible difference does this new law even make: not just to that individual woman, in those specific circumstances (in which case, it is manifestly too late to be of any help, anyway)...

... but more cogently, to all the other Maltese (and foreign) women who are likely to end up facing similar – if not identical – circumstances, in future?

How, in a nutshell, does this law actually ‘improve’ matters... FOR THEM?

Let’s see now.  According to the Bill that was tabled in Parliament last Friday:

• Abortion will only be allowed if a woman’s life is at ‘immediate risk’;

• Abortion will only be allowed if a woman’s health is in ‘grave jeopardy which can lead to death’’

• A three-member medical team will decide on termination, and;

• If the foetus can live outside the womb, it has to be delivered.

So let’s go back to that specific case, raised by Robert Abela himself in defence of this (justly lambasted) amendment: and see how many of those provisos actually apply, to that ‘mentally-ill woman’ in question.

At a glance, the answer seems to be... ‘not a single one’. At no point, for instance, was that woman’s life ‘at immediate risk’ (unless, of course, you count the generic risk of being ‘murdered by an abusive partner’: which, naturally, has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘pregnancy complications’).

Nor did her pregnancy – in and of itself - pose any form of ‘grave danger’ to her health, ‘which could have led to her death’.

Simply put: this case was not analogous to the one of Andrea Prudente last summer (which kick-started this entire debate, to begin with). There were no ‘complications’ – that we know about, anyway – of the kind that might have entitled that woman to ‘legally’ terminate her pregnancy, with this new legislation in place.

And as for the foetus that was aborted, in those unhappy circumstances: there is nothing whatsoever, in the entire court ruling (which includes the testimony of numerous medical experts) which suggests that the pregancy itself was ‘unviable’, in any way, shape or form.

Naturally, I will not presume to declare, on that basis alone, that ‘the foetus could easily have lived outside the womb’. But we can all clearly see, from the facts of the case itself, that: this law would not have made a jot of difference, to the woman who suffered the injustice of a criminal conviction, for something that should never have been treated as a ‘crime’ in the first place.

Which is not to say, of course, that there WASN’T any risk to her health: she was, as Abela himself indicates, suffering from ‘mental health issues’, at the time when she procured the abortion.

Ah... but that’s the irony of this amendment right there, isn’t it? Had Robert Abela stuck to his original plan – which was, if you’ll remember, to specifically include ‘mental health issues’, among the list of ‘permissible conditions for legal abortion’ – then...

...well, this amendment WOULD HAVE made a difference, to women caught up in those situations in Malta. And it WOULD HAVE ‘made history’, by actually effecting a major – and hugley important – ‘disruption to the status quo’.

But... Robert Abela didn’t stick to the original plan, did he?

As Marlene Farrugia so perceptively put it, yesterday: our Prime Minister simply caved into every single demand, of a manifestly extremist lobby-group...

... with the result that the prosecution of that same ‘mentally-ill woman’ – which Abela himself described as a ‘wake-up call’, remember? – would still take place today: in spite of a reform that was supposed to actually ‘solve’ that woman’s problems.. and not add to them!

But oh well. I suppose there is at least one sense in which Robert Abela can truly claim to have ‘made history’. He has literally ‘turned the clock back’, all the way to the ‘Pre-Enlightenment Age’...