Safe Abortion Day: The right to choose

Given that the fetus is entirely dependent on the woman’s body to transform it into a full human being, the woman should be given the right to make such a difficult decision herself

In another section of the press, Mr Klaus Vella Bardon and his colleagues insist that new life starts at conception. There is no doubt that this mass of cells could eventually develop into a full human being. However, at least for the first 24 weeks or so of the pregnancy, the fetus is completely dependent on the body of the woman.

When pregnancy is not planned for some reason or another, such as failed contraception; or where it was in fact planned but there is now shown to be a serious congenital anomaly incompatible with life (e.g., anencephaly); or if there is a serious maternal infection that may cause death of both the woman and her fetus, we are being implored to ask whether the interests of this new being ‘in process’ are being protected, and whether terminating this pregnancy would be equivalent to murder.

I believe that obliging women to go through pregnancy is no different from binding one to act as a human machine attached to someone else to sustain them. Imagine for example a world without dialysis machines, where the only way a person with kidney failure could filter their blood would be if they were attached to another person until the dialysis is complete.

And imagine that this process must continue 24/7 for 40 weeks. There is no other context where such a demand can be made of any human being. Therefore, it would seem to me entirely unfair to say that if such a person were to decide to not continue to sustain a being that is totally dependent on its body, that that person should be criminalised. Viewing the human body in this way undermines the status of women as full human beings with full human rights, dignity and the right to choose their own path in life.

It is never easy to decide whether to terminate one’s pregnancy. However, given that the fetus is entirely dependent on the woman’s body to transform it into a full human being, the woman should be given the right to make such a difficult decision herself, in a safe environment that can offer protection, support and care – whatever she decides.  Women are perfectly capable of doing this.

This is why Doctors for Choice, in collaboration with the Women’s Rights Foundation and Women for Women, have recently launched the Family Planning Advisory Service (fpasmalta.info, 27782758). We will provide information such that women can make informed choices about their reproductive health care options. This is the right thing to do, not only today, on Safe Abortion Day, but every day.

Prof. Isabel Stabile, FRCOG., Ph.D.

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