What they won’t tell you

Taken after fertilisation, the morning-after pill can be abortifacient indeed

Those who do not believe in science need not continue reading. This article is aimed at those who value science, logic, responsibility and love. Having an unplanned or unwanted baby, whether it’s because of rape, out of wedlock or in marriage or similar relationships, has been with us forever.

With or without contraceptives there’s always a risk.

As women, we experience anxiety and panic at the possibility of an unplanned child. Whether this happens to a teenager in a one-night stand, to a single adult, or to a person in a committed or marital relationship, it is not an easy reality to face. Future plans are disrupted, questions over financial burdens arise, and the fear of facing the responsibility at times alone, can indeed be a source of great emotional and mental stress.

Many Maltese mothers do keep the child even when it is hard and inconvenient. As Josephine (not her real name) put it: I am 23 years old. About a year ago I discovered I was pregnant with my third child. I felt my world was crashing around me. I even thought of abortion. But, thank God, I sought help from the Gift of Life and they helped me throughout the whole pregnancy and when the baby was born. They were a pillar of strength for me”. Through regular counselling Josephine was able to face her fears and keep the child. Today she is extremely grateful. She matured after this experience, and she is able to hold and love her baby who brings so much more happiness into her life and that of her family.

Another NGO, Dar Guzeppa Debono in Gozo, has supported Maltese mothers before, during and after pregnancy for over 30 years. They also involve the wider family and address the male partner too. 

Yet, the morning-after pill campaigners are promoting a more simple and convenient solution. We all love convenience, don’t we? They even try to put our mind at rest that this pill is not abortifacient.

Yet, as the sexualhealth.gov.mt puts it, the morning-after pill can be taken any time in the first five days after intercourse. Science teaches that “the development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.” (Sadler, T.W. Langman’s Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3). The current Embryo Protection law also states that “‘embryo’ means the fertilisation of a human egg cell by a human sperm cell which is capable of developing and shall further include each totipotent cell removed from an embryo or otherwise produced, that is assumed to be able to divide and to develop as a human being under the appropriate conditions.” So, taken after fertilisation, the morning-after pill can be abortifacient indeed.

It could be possible that the whole morning after pill issue has mainly one aim – that of making the public believe that human life starts at implantation and not at fertilization. Could attempting to alter this embryo definition also pave the way for the acceptance of embryo freezing, research on embryos and legally discarding of embryos in their first days of existence? 

Let us not forget the deeper ramifications of the legalisation of the morning-after pill on the nature of relationships, sexual practices in our society, the way we consider children and in our regard to human life. What message will this law be passing on to our daughters and sons? It will definitely not teach them responsibility. Could this possibly lead to a higher increase in sexually transmitted diseases? 

The campaign for the morning-after pill is being led in the name of women’s rights. However, properly defined, feminism is a philosophy that embraces the basic rights of ALL human beings without exception – without regard to race, religion, sex, size, age, location, disability or parentage. Feminism rejects the use of force to dominate, control or destroy anyone. Founded by Mary Wollstonecraft in England in 1792, decrying the sexual exploitation of women in A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Wollstonecraft also condemned those who would “destroy” the embryo, stating: “Nature, in everything, deserves respect.”

Let’s foster a culture where all children feel welcome, whether they are wanted or whether their conception is a surprise. Let us support NGOs who address the genuine fears and troubles which unplanned pregnancies bring about. Let us keep empowering parents with parenting skills and life-long learning opportunities so that their children can lead happy and healthy lives. May we, as women, have the courage to embrace womanhood in its true totality, even when this means making space for others in our wombs, or in our lives. We urge the authorities to consider the issue and its effects not only on women, but also on embryos in their early stages and on the fabric of society. We urge all people of good will to voice their opinion in this debate. Choosing to remain silent creates a vacuum which is filled by the voices of only one side of the story. 

Mariella Catania, Martha Fitz, Marisa Gatt, Christine Rossi, Suzanne Vella
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