By Hilary White and John-Henry Westen
ROME, July 21, 2009 ( – In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading daily newspaper, Rocco Butiglione, one of Italy's best-known Christian Democrat politicians, said that he is opposed to efforts to create binding legal protections for the unborn in Italy. Instead, he said, he favors a shift in emphasis on “reducing abortion” by supporting women in need.

Butiglione spoke of a new network of pro-life parliamentarians who are not against Law 194, which permits abortion. “We do not want the law changed. Less than ever.” The new emphasis, he said, must be to oppose the “use of abortion as a means of birth control.”
Buttiglione has long been known in Europe as one of the staunchest defenders of Catholic teaching on the absolute inviolability of human life, and this shift away from the Catholic Church's insistence that abortion must be made illegal has come as a shock to pro-life advocates. In 2004, Buttiglione was rejected as a minister in the European Commission because he had defended his traditional Catholic beliefs on homosexuality, abortion and the family.
Only this month, the Vatican issued a powerful reiteration of the Church's teaching on the absolute evil of all procured abortion and the responsibility of Catholics in public life to work to abolish it. In the “clarification” published in L'Osservatore Romano on July 7, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith quoted the Bible, the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as ancient, medieval and modern authorities from the second century AD to the Second Vatican Council, saying:

“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined … As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction 'Donum Vitae', III).”

Buttiglione, however, now says that those, including himself, who had opposed legalization of abortion in Italy's Law 194, had been mistaken. Instead, he says, they now “recognize that we too were wrong on one point” in defending the unborn child against his mother.

He said, “I say theologically, God entrusts the child to his mother in a very particular way, that defending the child against the mother is right, but impossible.”
Following the lead of US President Barack Obama, Buttiglione said, “We have to support the mother, making her more free. The more free she is, the more difficult it will be for her to renounce the child.”
Under law 194, passed in 1978, Italian women may abort their children for any reason up to three months gestation. Abortions are performed free-of-charge in public hospitals and in private facilities funded by the regional health authorities.
The July 17th interview follows two pivotal events in pro-life efforts in Italy; the meeting between US President Barack Obama with Pope Benedict XVI and the passage in the Italian Parliament of a motion to ask the UN for a global moratorium on coercive abortion and the use of abortion for population control. The latter was the result of Buttiglione's efforts to find what Obama has called “common ground” between pro-life advocates and the abortion lobby.
“We can all come together to change things in countries in which there's neither choice nor life,” Buttiglione said. “That includes countries where abortion is obligatory, such as China, where millions of children are missing; and other countries, such as parts of India, Latin America and Africa, where there's pressure to have abortions, because they'll give you bread for the children you already have if you agree to renounce the one on its way.”
“Abortion is a wound in the national conscience, which has torn and divided. But today you can join in spirit the whole Italian nation, because both those who supported law 194, and those that have impeded it, have in part changed their minds. And Italy can drive a big international campaign to reach the goal agreed by the Pope and Obama: fewer abortions.”

Read related coverage:

On procured abortion – Clarification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Italy Seeks to Pass UN Resolution Condemning Coerced Abortions for Population Control