‘Abortion Is Not a Human Right’

Philosopher Rocco Buttiglione got the pro-life message out to Italian politicians. Now he’s working on the United Nations — and beyond.

Rocco Buttiglione, friend of Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II and vice president of the Italian Parliament, scored a significant pro-life victory on July 15 when he successfully persuaded a majority of Italian politicians to call on the United Nations to condemn forced abortions worldwide.

Half of humanity is victim to government laws, such as China’s one-child policy, that force mothers to have abortions. Buttiglione, who is a philosophy professor, explained how this is an important step in the fight toward at least reducing abortion and why it is a policy that pro-abortion President Obama could adopt. Neither side, he insists, has compromised on its beliefs.

Would you please explain more about the significance of this motion you introduced?

Here in Italy we had a referendum on abortion in 1981, and we lost. By “we” I mean the pro-lifers.

We lost, and it was a bad defeat. But in recent years, I think a significant number of Italians are changing their minds. We would lose again [if another referendum were held today], but we wouldn’t have such a large majority against us.

On the other hand, there’s another significant development: a number of people who are not ready to forbid abortion but, on the other hand, they think that abortion can be restricted somehow, that something should be done because there is an “abuse of abortion” — that we don’t do enough to prevent those abortions we can prevent. So for a couple of years, I’ve been trying to create a consensus on changes that give more protection for the mother, that help mothers accept their pregnancy, and that gives them, sometimes, economic support.

For the vast majority of cases in Italy, what they need is psychological support, ethical support, friends that tell them they can face this challenge. And we are trying to back groups that support mothers — the so-called Center for the Family.

You said when this motion was being debated that all sides see abortion as an evil. A pro-life group observed that it’s a step in the direction of saying abortion isn’t a right. Is that true?

Yes, exactly. It’s very significant. Livia Turco has said abortion is not a right. She is a strong pro-choice campaigner in Italy and has said abortion is a dire necessity.

Now I think we can create a majority and a broad consensus in Italy to try to reduce abortions, one that does not deny that a child has a right to life and that tries to protect a right to life, although this majority is not ready to accept that the right to life of the child must come first.

Some of them, within the majority, divide into two groups. One, those of us who are pro-lifers think that the right to life is such a fundamental right that no other right — not even the free choice of the woman — can overcome this right.

Others do not agree on this. But with them, we can, however, take some important measures. And the resolution we have proposed is based exactly on this.

Let me make this very clear: We are different; our ultimate goals are different; we have a different vision of abortion. We are pro-life, and, on other occasions, we may have to clash again. Nobody renounces his or her fundamental conviction. But it is a fact that in the world of today one half of humanity is threatened by abortion against the will of the mother.

Some abortion proponents will no doubt suspect that you are trying to get a pro-life agenda in through the back door. Do you think that’s the case?

I am not trying to manipulate those on the pro-choice side to becoming pro-life. That is not my intention.

This is a pro-life agenda, but why should pro-choicers be against those who are pro-life?

I tell them it is a pro-life agenda and that is why I support it, but is it a pro-choice agenda at the same time? We define an area, “delimitating” an area, in which pro-lifers and pro-choicers enter through different doors and can meet and struggle together against those who are against choice and against life.

And so there’s no compromise at all on the pro-life side?

No compromise. We do not give up our values, and we don’t pretend others should give up their own values.

There are some words of mine that have been misunderstood in the United States.

I was explaining why a pro-choicer might and should be supportive of this campaign, and they misunderstood me as if I had been pro-choice.

I remain what I have always been. There will be occasions in which we [pro-choice and pro-life supporters] will struggle against each other, but on this occasion, why should we?

But the analogy is that, if, during the Holocaust, one said we should reduce the numbers of Jews killed, it would be an offensive proposition. All innocent Jewish lives should be saved. What is your view of that line?

I think they are wrong. The comparison might be right in another sense. It is a commonly accepted doctrine of the Catholic Church that you cannot support the evil, even if one comes to you and says, “If you support my right of killing 1 million Jews, I am ready to spare the lives of another million Jews.”

Well, you can’t. Even if they say, “Let me kill just one Jew.” No, not even one. But in this case, I do not support the right to allow abortion in any case.

We just say in this resolution that while we’re not struggling against all the evil, we are fighting against part of the evil — and a very significant part — on which we can form a majority in Italy and, perhaps, in the United Nations. And this is more than one half of the abortion rate in the world.

So you’re confident this view can be carried forward internationally?

I hope that Hillary Clinton will not put this on the table [for abortion to be a human right], but if she does, Italy and the U.N. will take a position.

I hope she will not; I hope the Obama administration would rather support our position because how can you be in favor of those who support abortion against the wishes of the mother?

President Obama said in his meeting with Pope Benedict XVI that he was going to try to reduce abortions.

Yes, so this is a good opportunity for him to comply with the promise he made to the Holy Father, a very significant one.

Are you confident he will follow your lead?

We will see, but I am hopeful. Why should he be against it?

Edward Pentin writes

from Rome.