Following concern about some of his comments on abortion, pro-life Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione has clarified his position. Saying his words were taken “out of context,” he endorsed defending the unborn child “with all possible means” and stated he did not want to do anything to split the U.S. pro-life movement.
Buttiglione, a Christian Democrat politician and political science professor, is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. He was reported recently as saying that Italian pro-lifers’ opposition to the decriminalization of abortion was a “mistake.”
Speaking in a July 28 interview with the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute's “Friday Fax,” he said his remarks had created “quite a big mess.”
Describing the history of the Italian pro-life movement, he noted that a 1981 referendum on abortion was a “terrible defeat” for the pro-life cause, losing by 68 to 32 percent.
“In Italy the people freely chose abortion – a tremendous defeat for the cause of life,” he said.
Reporting that the situation has improved, as evidenced by a successful referendum on embryo research, he said pro-lifers would still lose another referendum on abortion.
“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,” he added.
The Italian pro-life movement now aims to ban abortion after 20 weeks, Buttiglione told the Friday Fax.
Discussing his reported comments about it being a “mistake” to oppose abortion decriminalization, he said his statement was “simplified.”
“I did not say it was wrong to seek to defend the rights of the child through the use of the penal code. I did not say that. The life of the child should be defended with all possible means. With penal law? Yes, of course, with penal law, where possible.
“But this is not possible in Italy today, so we must rely on other means. We must realize that we do not have a consensus on an abortion ban.”
However, he suggested pro-lifers in the past have relied “too much” on penal sanction, which is only the “one element” in the defense of life.
“If we do not remove the causes that lead so many women to abort, we will not win our battle against abortion,” he told C-FAM. “We will not win our battle against abortion relying only on penal sanction.”
He urged nations which retain abortion restrictions to defend their laws against abortion and also to complement such laws with “good policies in defense of motherhood, and for the support of mothers.”
Otherwise the pressure to remove abortion restrictions will be too strong, he believed.
“You cannot pit the support of the mother against the penal defense of the life of the child. They are two parts of one strategy to defend life. It is always better to have two legs.”
He noted that the pro-life movement has global and local aspects and must proceed on a strategy based on “prudential judgments” that respond to the particular circumstances of each nation.
Turning to U.S. politics, Buttiglione said it was important to seek “positive contact” with the Obama administration. He noted the president’s promise to Pope Benedict XVI that he would work to reduce abortions.
“I also want to reassure pro-lifers that we are not giving up on the life of one single child.
“We are not making an exchange, accepting the killing of a certain number of unborn children, in exchange for saving the lives of certain others. That is emphatically not what we are doing, and we do not renounce our principles.”
“[I]t is easy in the press to try to break the unity of the pro-life movement,” he continued. “Of course I want to be able to speak on friendly terms with the Obama administration – I know this is blasphemy to many pro-lifers in the United States! But on the other hand I want to be understood by American pro-lifers, and I do not want to break the unity of our front.”
In Buttiglione’s view, common ground efforts between pro-lifers and pro-choicers only have a “limited setting” in which compromise of pro-life principles is “completely unacceptable.”
In his Friday Fax interview, he also explained his push for a United Nations resolution that would ban the use of abortion as an instrument of population control. In some countries mothers are blackmailed to abort by conditions placed on assistance.
This cause could unite some who are “pro-choice” with those who are pro-life.
“I want to make one thing clear, no one has renounced principles,” the Italian politician said. “Both sides will continue to struggle against each other on other issues, but at least on this one, we can be united.”
In 2004, Buttiglione was nominated as a commissioner of justice on the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union. His nomination was stalled because of objections to his Catholic views on the immorality of homosexual conduct.
Buttiglione is planning a visit to the U.S. this fall to speak to pro-life leaders about his U.N. initiative.
To read the full interview with Rocco Buttiglione visit: http://www.c-fam.org/publications/id.1328/pub_detail.asp