As we see in Malta nearly every day, there are many issues on which people can reasonably disagree; different, sincere, opinions about such as when human life begins – or when it should be allowed to end, or whether the reality of recreational drug use (including alcohol and tobacco) should be accepted. In a democratic society we must be free to act in accordance with our conscience on an issue on which reasonable minds may disagree; we should not be compelled to participate in a practice contrary to our beliefs. But we may have equally valid, different, beliefs on, for example, bodily autonomy in its widest sense, on which we must be free to act, provided they cause no undue harm to others. If the debate about whether to legalise eg assisted dying, abortion, or drug use came down only to matters of personal conscience, the logical position must surely be to allow it, so each can decide whether it is appropriate for them. A prohibition based on one view holds everyone hostage to that view; permitting it allows each a choice to act on their own conscience, while forcing no-one to use cannabis, have or give an abortion, or participate in assisted dying. Of course, the state must protect the potentially vulnerable and weigh the social costs incurred on the other hand, eg healthcare. But we must recognise that driving activities – which are happening anyway – underground, brings more harm than good. Safeguards and limits are necessary, and can only come with legalisation. We would much rather see sensible regulation, enabling personal choice but reducing risks, than blanket illegality.
- Slippery slopes are everywhere
- Q4 2021 Update
- Regulate, don’t ban – some thoughts after the approval of the cannabis bill
- The EU Commissioner’s guidelines for EU staff on styles of communication
- UN Special Rapporteur on Respecting, Protecting and Fulfilling the Right to Freedom of Thought on the situation in Malta