The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

Abortion din again

Mark A. Sammut Sunday, 6 October 2019, 11:00 Last update: about 10 days ago

Is the abortion debate a side issue being blown out of all proportion? Does legalisation matter only to a very small minority and of no priority at all to the population at large?

All told, I think that for the vast majority of the Maltese the issue is not a priority. In 2019, the overwhelming majority of the Maltese are against the legalisation of abortion. Will it be like that in 2029, say? It’s difficult to say. My impression is that the younger generation are being heavily influenced by the media and by the propaganda the Hollywood volcano keeps spewing out. If you keep count of all the Hollywood stars and starlets who come out in favour of abortion, it becomes abundantly clear that Hollywood – possibly the world’s greatest ideology factory – is pro-choice.

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This has been going on for some time now. I remember watching a movie starring Liam Neeson some 5 or 6 years ago, in which the protagonist saves his daughter from kidnappers, or something like that. At the end of the movie – which had been rated “13” – his daughter tells him that she’s pregnant, and he tells her that he will support her whatever she chooses. The abortion option has been normalised to such an extent that it’s presented as a normal option to an audience that includes very young teenagers.

With such a barrage of pro-choice ideology, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that the younger generations will support such an ideology. They won’t even know why, and if you poke them they’ll turn aggressive. Because you would be attacking a belief built on brainwashing, not conviction. This week I tried a social experiment. There’s a satirical page on Facebook which usually comes up with intelligent comments on contemporary Maltese politics and society. But this week, it commented on the pro-life demonstration and poked fun at the speakers. I observed that abortion is not something to joke about. The reactions I got were quite sarcastic... When I asked for the reasoning behind the sarcasm (a veiled sort of aggression, to be sure), I got no answers.

This is not surprising. Ideology is a set of ideas that we know, but we don’t know that we know, and we don’t know why we know them. It’s like gravity. We all know gravity, but few of us know (or are aware that they know) gravity, and even fewer of us know why there is gravity. Ideology is like the water in an aquarium. All fish know there is water, but they take it so much for granted that they don’t know that they know and probably don’t know why they are in the water.

Ideology depends a lot on media manipulation. Dr Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister, was the prime but not sole expert of this mode of public opinion control. Goebbels simply made use of techniques that were coming to the fore in the early 20th century. Many of them, however, had already been used for centuries. What happened in the 20th century, and is certainly happening now with ever-increasing momentum, was that the level of technology grew to such an extent that manipulating more people with more ease became an attainable goal.

In Malta, this is happening without compunction. During this week, the State television station has been broadcasting suspicious news items. On September 26, the important news was broken to us that “Abortion in New South Wales is no longer illegal”. No hidden messages here?

On October 1, we were informed that a “Moroccan journalist [was] jailed on charges of an abortion that never happened”. Needless to say, this would be an abuse even had the charge been another – but in this suspiciously pro-choice climate, the relevance of the news item seems to me to shift from the false charge to the false charge being abortion. But let’s give TVM the benefit of the doubt. After all, this is a newsroom which considers “Shop in Auckland screens porn, after being hacked” (September 30) as a juicy news item to serve its audience under “Foreign Affairs”. It was even updated! With all that’s happening around the world, this was deemed a news item to be broadcast on the State news outlet!

Point is, these are attempts to sexualise the culture, to impose the idea on the population that sexual freedom is the highest goal to which one should aspire. This is nothing new. It’s the neoliberal ideology in the West, the subtext being: sexual freedom is the only freedom you can aspire to, otherwise you’ve got no freedom at all. Your political rights are being eroded (fake news on the internet, artificial-intelligence sieving of data to manipulate elections, etc); your social rights are being eroded (precarious work, irregular immigrants to dilute any sense of cohesion among the workers be they blue- or white-collar); your consumer rights are being eroded (Big Brother watching your buying patterns to cajole you into buying more useless stuff, planned obsolescence of products, etc) – but you enjoy sexual freedom. And they keep harping on this particular freedom (which is a freedom to be taken with more than a pinch of salt – what freedom is it that allows you to kill your own children? is it freedom or desperation?) so that they hide from you that they’re taking your other (more tangible) freedoms. If they give you the freedom to kill your own offspring so that you can be a career woman, unless you’re self-employed that career is more to the benefit of your employer than yours.

Who are “they”?

All those who stand to gain from this ideology. All those who stand to gain from precarious work, from blurring the line between family life and work, from having governments that open the doors for Big Business while keeping SMSs and workers out in the cold. Who are they? Their name is Legion.

One of those who stand to gain from the pro-abortion debate is The Invincible. His track record on good governance is so dismal, and – more importantly – his passport scheme is so dangerous (keep in mind the recent reportages we are all aware of), that he is risking a lot. Already his bigger ambitions were thwarted because of his passport scheme and his irresponsible shielding of his Chief of Staff and favourite Minister when it was discovered that, just after a few days in office, they opened secret Panama-registered companies. If he is not careful, he’ll be further undermined because he has still taken no corrective measures.

Let us not be naive. The reportages about the passport scheme did not come out of thin air. Or if they did, they certainly did not go unnoticed. These media attacks usually have serious repercussions, which are not necessarily apparent to the public. They are like torpedoes and there is usually a shock wave. Giving the impression that he is an ardent Neoliberal, a committed missionary trying to convert this heathen population to Neoliberalism, could help him save his skin. This is why a topic like abortion, that certainly has no majority support in 2019 Malta, is given such prominence on the State TV broadcaster. It is a tactic to keep The Invincible from sinking after the torpedo attacks.

* * * * *

The pro-choice lobby makes little sense to me. Their arguments are intellectually weak, emotionally charged, and mostly based on hysteria.

Up till a short while ago, the pro-choice lobby was arguing that abortion should be legalised because many pregnancies are the result of rape. This seemed an absurd claim to make, as the statistics do not show a noteworthy rape rate. Then they clarified. They argued that men rape their wives or partners. The accent was therefore shifted toward marital or quasi-marital rape. I have argued that this too is absurd. If indeed marital rape takes place, then there should be a trial and only after a trial should there be legal consequences. If women are allowed to abort because they think there was rape, then the entire judicial edifice would be demolished. It would pave the way for State-sanctioned vendettas, doing away with the judicial remedy to criminal offences. Why do we have trials? To ensure that (1) a crime was indeed committed, (2) the real offender is identified and the degree of guilt determined, and (3) the just punishment is meted out. Allowing women (the purported victim) to determine that a crime was committed by their partner, and then to self-apply a remedy (destroying the new life conceived), would mean bypassing and short-circuiting the judicial process and the rule of law.

Luckily, they stopped promoting this silly argument. Now, they seem to be insisting on “My Body, My Choice”.

At first blush, this seems to be a reasonable argument. After all, why should a woman carry in her body a new life if she does not want to? Upon further reflection, this battle cry is like hysteria.

There is, in motherhood, an ethical contract as well as a set of rules imposed by law: the contract between the parents and the new life. As it is a donation, it is a unilateral contract: the parents donate life and care. (The child would then accept, making the situation two unilateral deeds: the parents unilaterally donate, the child unilaterally accepts.)

Donating care is a corollary of donating life.

Can life be taken away, once donated?

This is the crux of the matter.

There can be no doubt (even though some crazy philosophers don’t agree) that after birth, life cannot be taken away.

The doubt (that the pro-choice lobby is trying to instil) is that life donated can be revoked before birth. For them it’s a sort of cooling-off period, like the right given by the law to change your mind after you buy something, or to return it if it is defective.

The obvious difference is that when you buy something, it is inanimate, whereas a child, though unborn, is alive. The analogy – be it explicit or implicit – is therefore wrong, as it equates a donation (of life) to a purchase (of an inanimate object).

The fundamental questions thus become: When should the contract of care start, from inception or from birth? Should there be a cooling-off period in a pregnancy, and why?

You will receive no answers from the pro-choice lobby, because the answers, if sincere, would clearly show the cracks in the case for abortion.

The essential point is that Life is so precious it cannot be meddled with.

Unfortunately, the West has accepted that Life can be meddled with, accepting abortion and euthanasia... I have recently discovered a Swiss philosopher, Barbara Bleisch, who is even arguing that there’s no case for filial care of ageing parents. It’s a return to Roman times, when the old were left to die in a cave, unwanted children exposed to the elements, and the disabled thrown off a cliff.

We have to ask ourselves what kind of world this is.

 

My Personal Library (69)

Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence by Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel (2005) explains the background to this discussion. Chapter 5 deals with family values and sexual norms. Let me quote. “Traditionally, the family represents the basic reproductive unit of any society. Consequently, traditional cultures tend to condemn harshly any behavior that seems to threaten reproduction and child-rearing within the family, such as homosexuality, divorce, and abortion. But in post-industrial societies with advanced welfare institutions, a strong family is no longer necessary for survival. These rigid norms gradually lose their function, and more room is given to individual self-expression.”

In other words, the welfare State (a Socialist ideal) has given birth to circumstances which are being exploited by Big Business (hardcore right-wing supporters). The Left has become liberal because it suits Big Business. Let’s not fool ourselves. There is nothing in Malta which comes close to multinational Big Business. In the grand, international scheme of things, Maltese businesses are small-to-medium.

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