When President Barack Obama met Pope Benedict XVI on July 10, he pledged to try to reduce abortions. It wasn’t clear how he planned to do so in view of his pro-abortion record, but developments in Italy should offer him one way of fulfilling his pledge without compromising his pro-choice beliefs.
Italian parliamentarians agreed earlier this month on a text to present the U.N. General Assembly, asking for a resolution against the practice of forced abortions. Research data published this week by the China Daily newspaper estimates that 13 million abortions were carried out in China alone last year, many as a result of the country’s one-child policy.
The motion, which was introduced by Rocco Buttiglione, the president of the center-right UDC party and an old friend of Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, was approved with just abstentions among members of leftist parties.
”We all agree,” Buttiglione told the Italian Chamber of Deputies (the Lower House), “that abortion is an evil, but we are divided amongst those who are for life and those who believe it is a choice. It’s now time to fight together against those in the world who are both against life and against choice.”
In the parliamentary debate, Prof. Buttiglione highlighted the extent of the forced slaughter of unborn children which takes place mostly in China and other parts of Asia: “There are countries covering one quarter of humanity in which abortion of the second child is required,” he said. “There are countries, spanning perhaps another quarter of humanity, in which it is possible for women to be bribed with the offer of aid to have abortions. This has created a dramatic imbalance in the world.”
The Italian pro-life group Science & Life said the vote “casts a new light on the abortion debate which until [recently] was too ideological.” Now, it said, there are “reasons for a common anthropology” and said the “mere fact that today we raise authoritative voices to say that abortion is not a right is a great step forward." Even Livia Turco, a prominent pro-choice leftist politician and former minister for health, acknowledged that abortion should not be a human right, thereby implicitly recognizing that the fetus is a human life.
Buttiglione got into some hot water on the issue as he seemed to suggest he was giving up on trying to make abortion illegal, and was instead working to support reducing abortions and supporting the choice of the mother over the rights of the child.
But speaking with him last week, he made clear he still believes in working to change the law, but he considers it “equally important to strengthen the relation between mother and child” — an approach no different to pregnancy support centers. “Since there is not in Italy a consensus on the reintroduction of a penal sanction, we have to concentrate our efforts for now on supporting the mother to help her to accept her motherhood,” he explained. He is therefore working reducing abortions while educating others about the evil of pregnancy terminations.
Buttiglione says his campaign against forced abortions is gaining support across Europe, particularly in Poland and Germany. He also believes the tide is turning in favor of the pro-life cause, driven in part by falling birth rates in the West and aging populations.
He is now looking to see how Obama responds to his campaign on forced abortions, especially after his pledge to Benedict XVI. “This is a good opportunity — a very significant opportunity — for him to comply with the promise he made to the Holy Father,” Buttiglione said. “We will see, but I am hopeful — why should he be against it?”
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