February 6, 2008

Moratorium on abortion (Ferrara's happy paradox)

A “moratorium on abortion” was originally proposed by Giuliano Ferrara, the editor of Italian national newspaper Il Foglio, after a resolution calling for “a moratorium on the death penalty” was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 18, 2007. If the world has finally acknowledged the importance of the life issue in that particular context—thought the editor of Il Foglio—why not to think that the world itself is now ready for another acknowledgement, and possibly on an even more pressing life-related ethical issue?

Giuliano Ferrara’s call was eventually echoed by Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini—it would be a “very logical step,” he said, to impose a moratorium on abortion in response to the recent vote in the United Nations calling for a moratorium on the death penalty—, the Italian Bishops' Conference, and L'Osservatore Romano (the Vatican's “semiofficial” newspaper). At last, some ten days ago, Columbian Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, announced in an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica that the Vatican will begin a global campaign to institute a United Nations moratorium on abortion. “We will begin in Latin America—said Cardinal Trujillo—and we'll meet with governments of every ideology, including marxists and socialists, because abortion is not an Italian or European problem, but a global one, and the Holy See wants to eliminate it.”

Ferrara’s idea was definitely a brilliant and perhaps an unexpectedly successful one—a non-Christian journalist become the forerunner of an old, typically Catholic battle!

To make it easier to realize how the above paradox has become reality, I strongly recommend the reading of the letter, reproduced below, to the United Nation Secretary General from which it all begun. The document, that has been already supported by international personalities, can be subscribed to by sending an email to moratoria@ilfoglio.it. I have already done so, and I hope you will too.


Dear Dr Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary General of the United Nations

Dear Honourable Prime Ministers and Heads of State of the United Nations

Over the last 60 years, notable measures have been adopted and efforts made to strengthen the legal framework designed to ensure the ideals expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was approved in Paris on 10 December 1948. Over the last thirty years, more than a billion abortions have been performed, at an average of roughly 50 million a year. According to the latest report by the United Nations Population Fund, in China, tens of millions of unborn children are in danger of being aborted - through incentives or coercion - in the name of family planning and national demographics. In India, millions of babies have been eliminated prior to birth over the last 20 years for sexist reasons. In Asia, the demographic balance is threatened by mass infanticide, which is taking on extraordinary proportions. In North Korea, the use of selective abortion is leading to a radical way of eliminating all forms of disability.

In the western world, abortion has also become the tool of a new form of eugenics that is violating the rights of unborn children and equality among mankind. Originally, prenatal diagnosis was designed to help people prepare and care for their unborn children, but it is becoming a way a improving the human race and, in doing so, destroying the universalistic ideals that underlie the Universal Declaration of 1948.

We are calling on you to look at our request for a moratorium on public policies that encourage any form of unjustified or selective enslavement of a human being in the womb through the arbitrary use of the power to annihilate, which violates the right to birth and to motherhood. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration states that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person". We are calling on the representatives of national governments to back a key amendment to this part of the declaration, by adding in, after the first comma, the words "from conception to natural death". Indeed, the Universal Declaration refers to "equal and inalienable" human rights and solemnly proclaims the "inherent dignity...of all members of the human family" (Preamble). Science has shown us - and some of the major discoveries in the field of genetics come after the declaration - the irrefutable presence from the first stage of development of the human genetic pattern in the embryo, a pattern that is unique and unrepeatable. In 1984, the Warnock Commission in the UK determined that 14 days after conception an embryo is not only a human being, but also entitled to the right not to be used for experimental purposes.

Governments must preserve and protect these natural rights, which include "the right to inherit a genetic pattern which has not been artificially changed".

The 1948 Declaration was the response by the free world and international law to the crimes against humanity that had been prosecuted at Nuremberg three years earlier. In 1948, in response to the eugenic practices of the Nazis, the World Medical Association adopted the Declaration of Geneva, which stated: "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from its beginning". Article 6 of the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) sets out that "Every human being has the inherent right to life". Today, selective abortion and selective in vitro engineering are the main ways in which eugenic, racial and sexual discrimination are perpetrated against human beings.

These are the same human being who are protected by article 6 of the United Nations charter of rights. Sixty years on from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it is necessary to renew the primary basis of our humanitarian inspiration through an amendment to article 3. As such, we call on all governments to truly ensure the respect of the rights of people, including above all the right to life.

Yours faithfully

René Girard, anthropologist member of Académie française,
Lord David Alton, member of the House of Lords
Roger Scruton, British philosopher at Birbeck College
John Haldane, Philosphy professor at St. Andrews University
George Weigel, biographer of Karol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger
Robert Spaemann, Philosophy professor emeritus at Universität of Munich
Sister Nirmala Joshi, General mother superior of Missionaries of Charity
Josephine Quintavalle, director of Comment on Reproductive Ethics
Paola Bonzi, Center for life help at Mangiagalli Clinic of Milan
Pierre Mertens, president of the International Federation for Spina Bifida,
Jean-Marie Le Mené, president of Fondation Jérôme Lejeune
Alan Craig,
president of British Christian Peoples Alliance
Richard John Neuhaus, chief editor of First Things
Carlo Casini,
president of Movimento per la vita, Italy
Lucetta Scaraffia, professor of history at Università La Sapienza di Roma
Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother


UPDATE February 20, 2008 — 19:05 pm

Here is an interview with editor of Il Foglio Giuliano Ferrara by Inside The Vatican - Monthly Roman Catholic News Magazine.

Figlio di tre genitori

Dunque, siamo arrivati anche a questo: un figlio procreato da tre genitori. Ora, penso proprio che, di fronte ad annunci come quello di alcuni ricercatori dell'università di Newcatsle, in Inghilterra, non vi sia altra scelta che disporsi ad una riflessione pacata e aliena da pre-giudizi e idiosincrasie (personali e “ideologiche”) di qualsiasi segno.

Da questo punto di vista credo che l’intervento di Angelo Vescovi—scienziato con un curriculum vitae di tutto riguardo, attualmente con-direttore dell' "Istituto di ricerca sulle cellule staminali", Dibit, H.S. Raffaele, Milano—sul Giornale di oggi sia esemplare.

La disamina della questione, ancorché molto schematica, mi sembra particolarmente convincente sia nelle premesse, sia nelle argomentazioni. E nelle conclusioni: l'ossessione di avere un figlio a tutti i costi è il “vero tema fondamentale su cui andrebbe aperto un dibattito.”