by Mary Jo Anderson

  February 5, 2008 ( – Hot-button pro-life and pro-family issues have the power to define politicians and their campaigns. Yet the campaign debates on pro-life matters have centered largely on domestic policy. Now, in a strange twist of events at the global level, politicians may find themselves pressured to answer an international demand for a worldwide moratorium on abortion.
  Just a month old, the call for an abortion moratorium has already met an astounding and favorable public response from nations as diverse as Spain and India. Advocates report that the moratorium has persuasive force with people of all backgrounds. “It is a human matter, yes? Not only for people of religious faith,” said Lola Velarde, president of the European Network Institute for Family Policies in Spain.
  The moratorium arose as an unexpected response to a United Nations’ resolution calling on its member states to submit to a voluntary moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution, a “landmark step” passed in December, justified its call for the moratorium because the death penalty “undermines human dignity.” Furthermore, the resolution states, the moratorium contributes to a “progressive development of human rights.”
  Support for the UN’s death penalty moratorium included the Holy See Mission to the UN. The delegation’s statement read, in part,
“In welcoming the adoption of this draft resolution, the Holy See once again calls on all States to take a consistent view on the right to life, in a way that their support for this important draft resolution would equally mean their support for the protection of the life of the unborn.”
  UN delegates and staffers are used to ignoring the Holy See’s call for a “consistent ethic of life” in dealing with humanitarian issues, it being an open secret that the UN uses these agencies to aggressively promote abortion. So it perhaps came as a surprise even to the Holy See when a secular Italian journalist, Giuliano Ferrara, founder and director of the opinion newspaper il Foglio, used the opportunity to call for an abortion moratorium as well.
  Ferrara, once a leader in the Italian Communist Party, appeared on television the day after the resolution on the death penalty passed, arguing that the logic of the death penalty being “unjust” and an offense against “human dignity” leads to the logical defense of innocent life in the womb. The Italian bishops saw a blessed opportunity here and promptly endorsed the moratorium in the Italian bishops’ own publication, Avvenire.
  Politically, a moratorium is an inspired vehicle for peaceful change. Because the UN’s death penalty moratorium is strictly voluntary (the resolution being non-binding), compliance is achieved by pressure from within the international community. In a similar manner, the abortion moratorium does not call for overturning laws in nations where the procedure is legal. Rather, it calls on policymakers to oppose it as social policy. Social pressure becomes political pressure.
  Velarde points out that the moratorium is the perfect tool to raise public awareness about what abortion really is. “It is a pro-life moment for us,” she said, “as we move toward our national election on March 9.” The incumbent president, José Zapetero, is “the radical pro-choice candidate,” and “he does not want to address the issue of the moratorium in the platform. Before now, abortion was never mentioned in the [political] debate. But now, the topic is on the television.”
  Meanwhile, in South Korea, Rev. Casimiro Song, Secretary of the “Life 31 Movement” of the Korean Bishops Conference, gave an interview to AsiaNews concerning the moratorium. “We welcome the UN adoption of the moratorium on the death penalty, passed on December 17, 2007 and we think it is a logical conclusion to extend it to a moratorium on abortion. As matter of fact, human life begins from the very moment of the conception.”
  Father Song continued, “To give a direct example, the number of serious criminals executed every day is only a tiny proportion compared with the thousands of innocent human lives that are silently killed by abortion every day throughout the world.” The Korean priest also added a call to include embryonic stem cell research in the moratorium.
  Other voices have quickly come on board. The Missionaries of Charity’s Sister Nirmala, Mother Teresa’s successor, urged nations to support the UN’s moratorium and the moratorium on abortion. Her countryman, Lenin Raghuvanshi, an avowed atheist and human rights activist awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, concurs: “It is ridiculous and absurd to suggest that abortion is a solution to hunger, in order to control population growth. What’s more the concept—typical of UN organizations—that overpopulation represents the greatest danger to the health of a nation has no basis at all in reality.”
  The call for a moratorium on abortion was certainly never the goal of the UN resolution on the death penalty. That resolution is scheduled as an agenda item again at the 63rd meeting of the General Assembly in 2008. Perhaps by then the logical connection between “undermining human dignity” via the death penalty and abortion will become more apparent—even for global politicians.
  Mary Jo Anderson is a contributing correspondent for