The Malta Independent 3 February 2023, Friday
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Abortion: such a gut-tearing subject on which to decide

Roger Mifsud Sunday, 4 December 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

It is so unkind, so unfair, that as a people our political masters play with our feelings and dearly held beliefs, to keep us in confusion so that we do not know who or what to believe. We are always being asked to choose between what is white or black, right or wrong.

The government says something is right, the Opposition says it is wrong, and we are dealing this time not with a bread and butter issue but with something that involves dearly, long held beliefs, on which we are being told to decide. 


I am referring now to the situation that has developed, in which we are being made to choose about whether something is, or is not, abortion.

To start with, I wonder if people are really aware of what abortion is, what it involves, what it means, how cruel it can be.

I remember in my youth seeing the Otto Preminger 1963 film of The Cardinal. In my later years I bought it in DVD. It is the story of a priest in which the most complicated subjects arise on which he has to decide.

Here is one of the scenes, one of the life issues that arises.

In The Cardinal Fr Stephen Fermoyle is being anointed as a prince of the Church, a Cardinal. As the ceremony progresses, he re-lives in his mind his years in the priesthood, and cases on which he had to decide.

One traumatic case that comes before his eyes is when, in the film, his sister Mona left the family. Contact with her was lost, until she was found to be living with a man, with whom she danced erotically as a means of livelihood.

Fr Fermoyle and his brother went to her but she would have nothing to do with them, she rejected their pleas to return home. They leave, but in time they seek her out again and find that her dancing partner has made her pregnant, and she is in her birth pains.

They take her to hospital. The stark situation develops, they are addressed by the doctor who is dealing with her urgent case:

"I am Dr Parks.

"Your sister has been in labour for several days. She has lost a great deal of blood. Why has she received no medical attention?"

Fr Fermoyle: "Because we didn't know where she was."

Dr Parks: "Her pelvic structure is abnormally small. The child's head is unusually large. Normal delivery is impossible.

"But we can save her. It's much too late for a caesarean. I will need your permission as her next of kin to do a fetal craniotomy."

Fr Fermoyle: "A craniotomy?"

Dr Parks: "Yes. We have to crush the child's head."

Fr Fermoyle: "You want to kill the child?"

"You would let Mona die?" – her former fiancé.

Fr Fermoyle: "It's a commandment: thou shalt not kill."

Former fiancé: "But it's alright to kill Mona?"

Fr Fermoyle: "We would be taking a creature of God's. A life, with a soul, alive, and deliberately kill it.

"I can't give my permission to commit murder."

The doctor wants a quick decision, unless "you want to lose both" he tells them. He operates, the baby is born, the mother dies.

The film is based on Henry Morton Robinson's book about the life of Francis, Cardinal Spellman, who was then Archbishop of New York.

The Vatican's liaison officer for the film was the Rev. Dr Joseph Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict XVI.

What l would like to know is, what does the proposed legislation in Malta do about such a situation? Whose life would be saved in this situation – the child's or the mother's?

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