Italian pro-life politician Rocco Buttiglione, personal friend of Pope John Paul II, sent a thunderbolt through the longtime pro-life world this week by allegedly saying it was a mistake to pursue laws prohibiting abortion, and that there’s a better way to advance the pro-life cause.

We’ve heard this argument a lot from ‘Catholic pro-life’ supporters of President Obama over the past year, but this was startling coming from Buttiglione. Has he capitulated to the false ’either/or’ proposition that protecting the rights of children in the womb ignores the rights of their mothers’?

No, he says, and thankfully C-Fam has given him the chance to fully explain his energetic intiatives to make global progress in the abortion battle.

Quick background:

On July 15, 2009, the Italian parliament surprised pro-lifers by calling upon the Italian government to seek a resolution at the United Nations condemning forced abortion. The legislative effort was led by Rocco Buttliglione, one of the most well-known Catholic politicians in Europe. Pro-lifers applauded. Two days later, pro-lifers were again surprised when Dr. Buttiglione gave an interview in an Italian newspaper in which he reportedly said that his past support for criminalization of abortion was a “mistake,” and that he supported joining “pro-choice” politicians in finding “common ground” aimed at reducing abortion.

What follows is his clarification, and a discussion of the facts and the new approach. Read the whole interview, it’s very interesting and enlightening.

Some snips…

In Italy, we held a referendum on abortion in 1981 and we pro-lifers lost, 68 to 32 percent. It was a terrible defeat. You have to understand that the situation in Italy was very different from that in the United States. In the United States, abortion was imposed on the American people by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. The people never voted for abortion. In Italy the people freely chose abortion – a tremendous defeat for the cause of life…On the other hand, while there is no majority in favor of banning abortion in Italy, there is a majority that thinks that abortion is too widespread, and something should be done to reduce abortion.

We have thus undertaken several initiatives. One initiative concerns how late can an abortion take place. While philosophically we know that an embryo is a human being, there is no consensus on banning early term abortions. But people think that the abortion of a fetus older than 20 weeks is unacceptable. So we are trying to pass a resolution that bans abortion after 20 weeks. 

We are also trying to implement portions of our existing law that have useful provisions about preventing abortion.

On the recent parliamentary action:

Let us seek a United Nations General Assembly resolution that bans the use of abortion as an instrument of population control. It is a continuation of the struggle of the Holy See at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 and the Beijing Women’s Conference in 1995. 

In parts of the world, in China in particular, abortion is compulsory, and one needs a permit to have a second child. But also in other parts of Asia, in Africa, and even Latin America, we see mothers being blackmailed. Programs that say “We will give you bread, but only if you accept an abortion.” We see this being done by UN agencies, which fund such programs.

So the idea is why not seek a UN resolution that would call for a ban on the use of compulsory abortion. This would be a resolution that should unite those who are “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” Because what happens in China is against both choice and the child.

The effort to pass a resolution in parliament succeeded. Big first step.

And now we have started a campaign worldwide to bring this issue to the UN General Assembly. And to do so, we hope to bring together “pro-choice” and “pro-life” people – though I want to make one thing clear, no one has renounced principles. Both sides will continue to struggle against each other on other issues, but at least on this one, we can be united.

He is coming to the US, hoping for “positive contact” with the Obama administration. Especially now that Obama promised Pope Benedict he would work to reduce the number of abortions.

Is common ground possible between the two opposing sides?

I don’t think we need to give true pro-choicers any bribe to convince them to join the struggle with us. If it is true, as they claim, that they are not for abortion but rather for freedom of choice, then this gives them the chance to join with us to prove it. 

If they don’t, then they really are not pro-choice, but pro-abortion. They like abortion. They don’t think that human life must be supported, but one must reduce the world’s population by any means necessary.

Also, this initiative forces people to make up their minds. Up until now, the label “pro-choice” could be a cover for a national socialist ideology of lifeboat ethics: Because there are too many people on earth, all means are acceptable to reduce population. We see that in third world countries, abortion has been much more cruel and widespread than in Western nations. 

So now we shall see if common ground is possible.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....