The debate on legalising abortion in Malta has been somewhat of a political hot potato for some time now. Unfortunately, as with many other controversial issues, politicians use this subject – whether for or against – as a means to gain political mileage, and consequently to boost (or perhaps, in the process, lose) votes.

Even in America, reproductive rights have been under attack for almost two centuries. Although 1973’s Supreme Court decision on Roe versus Wade was undoubtedly a huge step forward, the outbreaks never stopped. With the current US President being very vocal about his pro-life stance and vowing to punish women if they chose otherwise, it begs one to question the freedom of choice – something that curtails one’s right to make an informed decision that may ultimately affect both the mother and child’s quality of life. Trump’s behaviour is consistent with his belonging to the Republican Party. Yet the future looks rather bleak if someone occupying the White House still espouses such backward views.

To be a proper, democratic-to-the-core country, Malta needs to understand that being pro-life doesn’t give you the right to ban abortions. Otherwise, you’ll be denying the freedom of choice to people who might not share the same beliefs and values you do. Let me be clear about this, religious piety has no place in this debate, because it doesn’t do anyone any favours.

Controversial Euronews interview about abortion in Malta

Alas, we’re once again back to the ‘access to abortion’ debate. According to the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, “abortion is a human right”. Currently, women wishing to terminate their pregnancies do so abroad and under the strict conditions applying in those countries. So what’s the way forward? For Maltese women to enjoy this right, Malta needs to decide whether or not to pass a law accordingly.

Women seek to have an abortion for a multitude of reasons – all of which should be treated individually. Just imagine a woman going through an unwanted pregnancy, a baby born to a life confined in hospital, having to live with an excruciating disability, daily. Think of a baby being born into a household with abusive parents, or parents who cannot afford to provide the basic necessities in life. How about a pregnant woman diagnosed with cancer, or rape victims? We need to try and put ourselves in these people’s shoes for us to have the right, gall even, to criticise or choose for them.

All over Europe, every major civilised, Christian country in the EU has passed legislation for terminations under strictly defined legal and medical conditions. Women who fulfill the criteria can exercise that right. Undoubtedly, even in cases of incest or genetic disorder, those who don’t wish to exercise the said choice are under no obligation to do so – because, that’s the true definition of what choice is.

If a person is truly in favour of saving lives, abortion is an indisputable right, because without access to safe, legal abortion, women’s lives will be lost and the abortion rate will actually increase. In the EU, only Malta and Ireland haven’t passed similar legislation. Ireland will most probably change its law this year. So, shouldn’t Maltese women have similar access to this right?

Of course, I’m in no way attempting to pigeonhole each and every case in one restrictive category. Nor am I negating the immense sensitive topic at hand by making sweeping statements. I believe debates about any pressing issue are important, provided they’re addressed in a healthy, balanced and above all, civilised manner. And while I myself believe that children are one of life’s greatest achievements and bring joy to people’s lives, I also acknowledge the fact that not everyone shares the same view as I. So let’s not look at conception in such a facile manner. Let us once and for all veer off from naïveté and an enchanted view of life.

It’s only when we as a nation choose to end this stigma and allow for even further open-minded, inclusive debates and viable options we can take an actual step forward – a step in the direction of a more democratic option. And to me, allowing a person to choose freely is the way to go.