By Peter J. Smith

ROME, February 4, 2008 ( – Public debate has erupted once more over abortion after Italian gynecologists from Rome’s most respected medical schools over the weekend issued a call for doctors to save the lives of extremely premature babies, including those babies that survive an attempted abortion.

According to Adnkronos International (AKI), the document authored by the medical faculties of Rome’s well-respected La Sapienza and Tor Vergata universities and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart calls for the “resuscitation of premature babies even against the mother’s wishes,” and says that doctors must treat the unborn baby as “any other person at risk, and to assist it adequately.”

The document was published a day before Sunday’s “Day for Life” organised by the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

Health minister Livia Turco responded with outrage at the doctors’ proposal, deriding it as “unreasonable cruelty against the will of the mother.”

Turco has made clear that he opposes any restrictions on Italy’s abortion laws or a moratorium on abortion as called for by the Vatican, Italian bishops, and other political leaders.

According to Corriere della Sera, Senator Paola Binetti, a medical doctor and member of the recently dissolved Italian government, threw her support in favour of the Roman gynecologists, whose position has also been endorsed by politicians from Forza Italia and Alleanza Nazionale.

The issues of abortion and homosexual unions have engulfed Italy over the past year and dominated much debate.

Italy’s government collapsed after a small centrist Catholic party pulled out of Romano Prodi’s ruling coalition ostensibly after its leader, former justice minister Clemente Mastella, was accused of corruption. Mastella, however, had been a chief opponent of Prodi’s drive to legalise homosexual civil unions in Italy and had threatened to vote against the coalition over any anti-family legislation. With Mastella’s party having withdrawn, Prodi lost his one-seat control in the Senate and was forced to resign on January 25 after a vote of no confidence in the Senate.

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