‘One cannot be both pro-choice, and anti-abortion’ – bioethics expert

Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Agius told RTK that ‘one cannot bother be pro-choice and anti-abortion at the same time’. Prof Agius was being interviewed about  Pope Francis’ recent letter to the Pontifical Academy for Life exhorting them to promote a “humanism of fraternity”. In the letter entitled ‘The Human Community’, Pope Francis urged for the re-fostering of the spirit of fraternity which modern culture seems to be doing away with. “Mutual distrust between individuals and peoples is being fed by an inordinate pursuit of self-interest and intense competition that can even turn violent,” said the Pontiff.

Prof Agius is a Corresponding Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and has been appointed by the European Commission as member of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE).

What is the Pontifical Academy for Life?

Fr. Agius explained that the Academy was set up 25 years ago by St John Paul II to discuss  how  science and technology can be at the service of the human person and his fundamental rights.

The point was to have experts coming from different countries and backgrounds, including religious and non-religious scientists, IT experts and biology experts, among others. The next meeting they will have, according to Fr. Agius, will be at the end of February focused on the theme of Robotics and how it influences quality of life. This shows that the Academy is not just about abortion and euthanasia as some people think, said Agius. In fact, common discussion themes include how technology has changed society, along with other policies and technology which might be a threat to overall quality of life.

Why discuss robotics?

Fr. Agius spoke of how there have been calls for robots to be given human rights, and even citizenship, which leads to the questions of “what are advanced robotics?” and “how will they affect us?”

An example of what will be discussed in February is the concern that advanced robots will take over a number of jobs, which will directly affect quality of life for the workers losing their jobs. When it comes to the health sector, there are certain robots who are even taking care of children and the elderly.

Despite pointing out that “a robot is not human”, Fr. Agius conceded that there comes a point when Artificial Intelligence becomes so advanced that it can take more precise decisions than man.

‘Abortion and euthanasia extremely grave evils’

Agius reiterated that the Academy focuses on all issues that influence human life from beginning to end, not only abortion and euthanasia.

Pope Francis said in his letter that the Academy has managed to make its discussions and contributions count across the board of issues. He also pointed out that, “A sign of this is its constant effort to promote and protect human life at every stage of its development, its condemnation of abortion and euthanasia as extremely grave evils that contradict the Spirit of life and plunge us into the anti-culture of death.

A social media post from someone arguing that they are pro-choice but anti-abortion was mentioned as a final question about whether or not this is just word play, or a genuine argument.

The bio-ethics expert pointed out that if we truly believe that life should be protected from the beginning, we cannot be pro-abortion. He said that one always needs to be careful what we are actually saying when using the words ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life’.

If by ‘pro-choice’ it means that one makes their own decisions to eat healthy and exercise and generally choose the best way to live, then that’s totally fine, but not when it comes to euthanasia or abortion.

Fr. Agius then mentioned Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and his notion of consistent ethics. This basically says that if one speaks in favour of the environment, or disagree with animal abuse, the death penalty or war because of the killing of innocents, than one has to also by default oppose abortion and euthanasia.