Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Encouraging news on abortion from Italy

Catholic Insight
By Rory Leishman
Over the past 40 years, pro-lifers in Canada have endured one defeat and disappointment after another. Yet the best have never despaired: Despite every setback, they have retained complete confidence that the truth about the sanctity of all human life must ultimately prevail.
Consider, in this respect, some encouraging news from Italy. With an Italian general election pending on April 13, the conservative Italian Opposition Leader and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi announced on Feb. 11 that he supports a proposal to have the United Nations adopt a non-binding resolution calling for an international moratorium on abortion. He said: “I think that recognising the right to life from conception to natural death is a principle that the UN could make its own, just as it (recently) did with the moratorium on the death penalty.”
In taking this stance, Berlusconi was following the lead of one of his former cabinet ministers, Giuliano Ferrara. Among Italian politicians, Ferrara is a singular character: He is a self-confessed atheist and former communist, who has transformed himself in recent years into one of Italy’s most prominent conservative journalists.
Currently, Ferrara is seeking election to parliament as leader of the “List for Life” party. He has come to understand and insist on the basis of reason alone that abortion is “evil and should be eradicated.”
In Canada, no leading politician, let alone a serious candidate for the office of prime minister, would dare to support a global ban on abortion. To do so would be the kiss of political death.
But not so in Italy. Even after disclosing his support for a United Nations moratorium on abortion, Berlusconi continued to lead in the polls. Moreover, he has also made plain that his government would not just limit its action on abortion to promoting resolutions at the United Nations.
Senator Maria Burani Procaccini, the spokeswoman on family issues for Berlusconi’s party, has announced that she will introduce legislation to tighten Italy’s abortion regulations if Berlusconi wins the election and forms a new centre-right government. Under Italy’s existing abortion law, abortion on demand is permitted during the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy; from the 13th to the 24th week, an abortion is only allowed if necessary to save the life of the mother or if the baby is seriously malformed; and after the 24th week, all abortions are absolutely forbidden.
Burani Procaccini has promised: “The new law will allow abortion only in really justified cases and within the time-frame already envisaged. There will be tough sanctions for doctors who modify their diagnosis in order to certify non-existent problems with the fetus."
There are, of course, no “really justified cases” for abortion. At least, though, Berlusconi and Burani Procaccini have indicated that they not only personally oppose all abortion, but also plan to introduce legislation to safeguard the lives of at least some babies in the womb.
Consider, in contrast, the sorry state of the politics of abortion in Canada: Both Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Opposition Leader Stephane Dion oppose any government legislation to restrict abortion: This, despite the scandalous fact that Canada is the only democracy in the world where abortion is legally permissible at any time and for any reason during a pregnancy right up to the last second before birth.
What’s wrong with Canada? Why are the leading centre-right politicians in Italy far more sensitive than any of their Canadian counterparts to the urgent need to enhance safeguards for the life of babies in the womb?
Among many contributing factors, a difference in clerical leadership stands out. In Italy, Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, was quick to speak up and commend Berlusconi for endorsing a global abortion moratorium. And on Feb. 25, Pope Benedict XVI followed up with a public statement, reaffirming his oft-repeated conviction that life should be respected “from its dawn” and “in every moment of its earthly development.”
Catholic leaders and pro-life Evangelicals in Canada should take note: By also speaking out more often and more emphatically in defense of the sanctity of all human life, they, too, could play a key role in finally persuading Parliament to place at least some curbs on abortion.

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