Science supports the unborn

In his article ‘Obsessive compulsive disorder’ some time ago, Martin Scicluna asserted that: “An ovum is a living cell, as is a spermatozoon. Both can be described as alive. The cluster of cells which is the embryo is likewise alive. But this is not the same as saying it is a human person or a ‘baby’.

“The question is: at what stage of development should the status of a child be accorded to an embryo of the human species?

“Fertilised eggs and embryos lack any capacity for personhood by any standard of neurological functioning... To declare them as such is to devalue the personhood of actual children.”

This is paving the way for the introduction of abortion in Malta for disabled unborn children and euthanasia.

I don’t know how Scicluna arrived at this description of an embryo. He is no medical scientist and is no authority on embryology. He quoted no authoritative sources at all. It was his definition of an embryo. Again he painted himself an authority on this subject.

He also rested his views on what certain sectors of religious beliefs say about the human embryo. Yet, ironically, he lambasted religious believers for “thinking they alone can define a nation’s morality... and for wanting to impose their morality on women by telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies”.

Scicluna always portrays the image of a man of science. Yet, I am amazed at his apparent ignorance of what renowned medical scientists say about the unborn child and when life begins. I believe it was a deliberate omission on his part. Here is what some medical scientists said, already many years ago, about the beginning of human life.

According to Frank Muscat (March 21): “Bernard Nathanson, the co-founder of the National Association and Reproductive Rights Action League, describes his progression from a doctor who performed 75,000 abortions during his career to a leading pro-life advocate, mainly due to increasing science and technology.

“As a result of this technology – looking at this baby, examining it, investigating it, watching its metabolic functions, watching it urinate, swallow, move and sleep, watching it dream, which you could see by its rapid eye movements via ultrasounds, treating it, operating on it – I finally came to the conviction that this was my patient.

“This was a person! I was a physician, pledged to save my patients’ lives, not to destroy them. So I changed my mind on the subject of abortion. There was nothing religious about it.”

In 1981 a US judiciary subcommittee invited experts to testify on the question of when life begins. All of the quotes from the following experts come directly from the official records of their testimony.

Alfred Bongioanni, professor of paediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at conception. I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life.”

Every child has the right to be respected as an independent person even before birth. Every child is entitled to a secure prenatal relationship and bonding

Jerome LeJeune, professor of genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris, was the discoverer of the chromosome pattern of Down’s Syndrome. LeJeune testified to the judiciary subcommittee: “Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”

Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard University Medical School said: “It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”

Watson Bowes, from the University of Colorado’s Medical School, noted: “The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter – the beginning is conception. This straightforward biological fact should not be distorted to serve sociological, political or economic goals.”

A prominent physician pointed out that at these Senate hearings “pro-abortionists, though invited to do so, failed to produce even a single expert witness who would specifically testify that life begins at any point other than conception or implantation. Only one witness said no one can tell when life begins”.

The International Society of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Medicine (ISPPM), not a religious organisation, located in Germany, considers this earliest stage of life as the first ecological position of the human being and the womb as its first ecological environment.

Pregnancy is perceived to be a period of active and continuous dialogue between the prenatal child, the mother and her psycho-social environment. From a holistic view, human life is recognised as an indivisible entity and continuum of all human functions, both physical and psychological in which no division between “body” and “mind” can be made.

“The aim of ISPPM in research and practice is the improvement of the quality of life of the human being. The prenatal stage of life represents a unique opportunity for primary prevention of psychological, emotional and physical disorders in later life.”

In fact ISPPM also produced a Charter on the Rights of the Child Before, During and After Birth which says:

“Every child has the right to be respected as an independent person even before birth. Every child is entitled to a secure prenatal relationship and bonding. Every child has the right to respect for, and protection of, the continuity of its experiences during pregnancy and birth.”

The Charter is based on the resolution adopted by the International Congress on Embryology, Therapy and Society 2002 in Nijmegen (the Netherlands).

A similar non-religious organisation is the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health of Colorado US. The “prenatal” in the title refers to the period of about nine months including conception and the whole of gestation.

APPPAH believes that these experiences are formative for both babies and parents, and tend to establish patterns of intimacy and sociality for life. At stake here is quality of life – the quality of personal growth and the quality of society itself. Ultimately, APPPAH points out: “Womb ecology becomes world ecology.”

The Malta Unborn Child Movement (MUCM) has already established contacts with ISPPM and APPPAH.

In fact MUCM has embarked on the promotion of womb ecology, development education and policymaking and on Pro-Life Day reached agreement with the Speaker and the two whips in Parliament so that, together, we will organise a national conference on womb ecology very soon.

MUCM has also suggested to the President during a courtesy call on Pro-Life Day 2016 that Malta could, and should, be a hub on womb ecology in the Mediterranean.

MUCM is suggesting further that the project will include collaboration with research and policymaking institutions, locally and abroad.

Tony Mifsud is coordinator of the Malta Unborn Child Movement.

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