Italian referendum results may signal need to revise abortion law, says minister

Church officials and leaders in Italy have welcomed the results of a failed referendum that could have lifted the country’s restrictions on in vitro fertilization and embryonic research. The referendum June 12-13 was invalidated due to low voter turnout (25.9 percent). A turnout of more than 50 percent was required to make the vote valid.

Church leaders and, in particular, Camillo Cardinal Ruini, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, had urged Catholics to boycott the referendum.

Cardinal Ruini said he did not see the result as a victory for Catholicism, but as a sign that Italians are not prepared to discard all restraints on artificial human reproduction, reported CWNews.

"What really won was the moral conscience of our people and the future of man himself," the cardinal said Monday in an interview on Canale 5.

Cardinal Georges Cottier, the theologian of the pontifical household, told the media that few people voted because the questions and issues were complex and many voters did not understand their options. Others probably took advantage of the good weather that weekend and headed for the seashore or the mountains, he speculated.

Cardinal Cottier said Catholic activists and political leaders must work quickly to gain public recognition that an embryo is a human person, worthy of legal protection.

Cardinal Cottier insisted that the bishops were not engaged in partisan politics. Rather, he said, they had understaken a "major teaching effort" to acquaint people with the issues at stake.

The president of Italy’s Catholic Action said the referendum “gave voice to the will of the people.” Alici told the Fides news service: "Scientific research is necessary, but it must have ethical limits; not everything is lawful."

Some Italian leaders now way the results of the referendum may put Italy’s permissive abortion law up for revision.

Italian Regional Affairs Minister Enrico La Loggia told La Stampa that the referendum proved that Italy is “more attentive to the values of the Catholic tradition" than previously thought.

“These principles for the protection of life that are being affirmed today must be taken into account," he said in an article published Tuesday.

While the minister said the revision would likely not take place in the immediate future, he was open to starting a reflection on the matter.

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