This is a slightly modified version of the article that was published in the Times of Malta.
Malta is a paradisiacal island in the middle of the Mediterranean, with palm trees all over and well-fed cats roaming around every part of the rock. The people are friendly, the sea is never far away, and the sun shines some 300 days per year.
But Malta has plenty of flaws. And while I don’t love to point out the bad parts of a country that welcomed me so warmly, it is heartbreaking to see the island deteriorate by the day, and my friends leave at every opportunity they get. To be better, we need to start with the bad.
And bad it was, last Sunday. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest against a legal amendment that will allow doctors to perform an abortion to save a woman’s life. The organisers claimed 20,000 people attended the demonstration.
Malta is the only country in Europe where abortion is illegal in any case, even when a woman’s life is in danger. It forces at least 400 women to travel abroad for the medical procedure annually, and hundreds more seek illegal termination options at home.
Fifty brave women shared their stories anonymously with Dear Decision Makers, many of whom turned to unsafe methods such as excessive drinking, abuse of drugs and self-harm in an attempt to induce an abortion. Nearly half of these women dealt with pregnancy-related suicidal thoughts.
Yet thousands of ‘pro-life’ people got off their sofas and took to the streets to tell these women that if their life was in danger - if they were on the brink of death due to a high-risk pregnancy - they couldn’t care less. They protested against women’s lives.
You don’t see this type of rage about anything else in Malta. Not for the 20-year-old who was crushed to death under a collapsed building last Sunday, not for the countless women who were killed by their husbands or exes, not for Miriam Pace, who died in the rubble of her own home, not for the thousands of migrants dying at sea trying to reach Malta, not for Lassana Cisse who was shot by two Maltese soldiers for the colour of his skin, and not even for Daphne Caruana Galizia.
There are plenty of things these 20,000 people could be mad about: negligence in construction, rampant corruption, the total lack of environmental protection, the number of fatal accidents caused by drunk driving, authority’s apathetic attitude towards domestic violence, or the justice system that allows murder suspects to be out on bail for over a year and travel to Italy for a football match.
They could protest against police officers abducting and beating people up, the dozens of child sexual abuse cases within the Catholic Church, elderly people facing abuse and disappearing from care homes, the pathetic state of psychiatric care, or the assassination of a journalist by their own government.
“It is insulting that, over the past decade of my life, I have seen my country go to shit”, a master’s student at the University of Malta said on the condition of anonymity. “It is literally next to unliveable at this point. There are no natural areas, there are no public spaces.” She is among the 93% of youths who believe Malta’s environment is getting worse.
“And then they’re going to come out and protest against this? They’re not angry when all these child sex abuse cases come out? They’re not angry when migrants die at sea? They’re not angry when women are raped, murdered, or shot in broad daylight?”
They aren’t. Because they do not care about life. In fact, nobody ‘pro-life’ in Malta cares about life unless it threatens their Catholic faith.
These people advocate for the unborn because, as pastor Dave Barnhart said, “the unborn are a convenient group of people to advocate for”. The unborn are not people yet; they have never made any mistakes, and they make no demands of you. The unborn are blank slates, innocent and pure, and you can protect them without going against your prejudices or biases.
But as soon as they are born, your biases come into effect. When the unborn become migrants who decide to come to Malta, people don’t care, and it is their own fault they are drowning. And when the unborn become women, people no longer care because they got themselves into a nasty situation, and it’s their own fault they are raped and killed.
So in order to protect women, we need to stop being sexist. To protect children from systemic sex abuse, we must scrutinise the Catholic Church. To protect migrants from drowning, we need to fight racism. To protect people from dying under collapsing buildings, we need to accept that the government is corrupt and that politicians care more about money than its citizens.
Protecting the unborn allows people to feel morally superior without having to do any sort of self-reflection or be critical of their own prejudices and biases. It allows them to stand for something without giving up on any comforts they have in life, because the unborn are a demographic that doesn’t exist yet.
The Maltese manage to protect stray cats, because all you need to do is spend a few euros and throw cheap cat food on the floor to feel like a good Christian. In the same way, they manage to protect the unborn, because they aren’t subject to xenophobic prejudices yet. These people take to the streets to protect the most archaic abortion laws in the continent, and their mindsets are stuck in the past.
It is the loud voices of this grey-haired generation that makes the Maltese youth wants to leave.
Credit: Jonathan Borg/Times of Malta
Look at this photo. How many women of childbearing age do you see? How many people are under the age of 30? How many youths voluntarily showed up to this protest?
It is no surprise that 60% of Malta’s youth want to leave the country. It is no surprise that our friends with ambitions have either left already or are planning to. It is no surprise that anyone with an education or common sense seeks a better life abroad.
It is because of attitudes like this. Because people would rather protect the unborn, who don’t even exist yet, from a hypothetical situation where abortion is fully legalised, rather than do something about the actual problems in this country.
These people are not pro-life. They are virtue-signalling and pretending to be good Catholics when people die on their watch every single day. But in reality, Maltese ‘pro-life’ people only care about the lives of two things: unborn babies and stray cats.
Belle de Jong & Nina Attard Montalto