'Let no one kill a child in its mother’s womb’

The challenge posed by a ‘pious atheist’

Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks to Giuliano Ferrara, the director of the Italian daily ‘Il Foglio’, the author of the project of moratorium about abortion.

Wlodzimierz Redzioch: - Why did you propose your moratorium about abortion?

Giuliano Ferrara: - When I proposed a project of the moratorium about abortion on 19 December 2007 I wanted to unmask the evil, which is abortion, and to mobilise people to fight against it. When they ask me which law allowed me doing that I answer, ‘I do it because I am a rational human being. The fact that I was a communist, that I come from a communist and atheistic family, that I am a representative of the generation that was formed during the students’ revolution of the late 1960s, that I define myself ironically and self-ironically as a ‘pious atheist’, does not have any meaning in this respect. What matters is that I am a rational human being. Believers claim that rational human beings are created in the image and likeness of God; non-believers have no faith to understand the depth of the nature of man-creature but we all agree that people have been given reason and ability to speak. Therefore, as a rational human being I think that abortion is evil and we should fight against it.

- The overwhelming Western culture shows abortion as one of the ‘civilisational achievements’...

- Abortion is not an achievement of our civilisation at all! Abortion is evil, which makes the lives of contemporary women and men worse, unhappier and hopeless. Abortion is violence done to the unborn child, its mother and father as well as the whole society. Therefore, one must create a new culture, I would say a contra-culture, concerning abortion.

- Why must the fight against the phenomenon of abortion concern the sphere of culture as well?

- About 30 years ago abortion became legal in all Western countries (it has been legal in the communist countries for 50 years) by virtue of legal bills. The problem is that with time abortion has not only been seen as a legal phenomenon abut also as a justified one, i.e. morally neutral. We have got used to abortion as if we dealt with some aspect of freedom of choice, which does not have any implications and cultural, civil and spiritual effects in the life of our society.

- For some time the radical feminists’ groups have tried to impose the world a ‘new status’ of abortion as the fundamental human right, using various methods, including appeals to the United Nations...

- That’s right. The risk is that abortion will be recognised as the absolute right to self-determination.

- Most feminists have regarded your project of the moratorium about abortion as another attack against woman’s freedom...

- I do not analyse the conscience of the woman who rejects motherhood and I do not want to act as a judge. I do not think that we should return to punishing those who abort children or that we should force women not to abort their pregnancies. But this does not salve my conscience and does not incline me to claim that we should agree to abortion. On the contrary. Since we have freedom of choice - the right in the West, in the USA on the basis of the Roe vs. Wade verdict - the choice should be for life and not for abortion as morally neutral. We should also consider that within the last thirty years, together with the scientific progress, the in vitro fertilisation (creating embryos, i.e. human beings outside woman’s body) and the demographic policies of many Asian countries, which suggest abortion and sometimes force women to abortion, abortion has become a dramatic cultural challenge posed to our sense of humanity. The eugenic abortion, i.e. the method of birth control, is even worse than abortion understood as rejecting motherhood. Practicing this type of abortion brings about the death of million girls because they are regarded as useless from the social and economic point of view and they create problems with inheriting. Within the last 30-40 years over one billion legal abortions were performed and every year there are between 43 to 50 million abortions. Moreover, outside woman’s body, i.e. in vitro, the eugenic selection, which more and more replaces treatment, is performed. So we witness a transformation of medical deontology and medicine, which instead of treating patients becomes a method of selection. This is a pagan logic that has nothing in common with the Christian roots of the European and Western culture; this is the logic of the ‘Tarpean Rock’ [the steep southern slope of the Capitol in Rome, from which criminals were thrown in ancient times], which should be decisively rejected.

- Let us speak about your letter directed to the UN Secretary-General. What concrete matters do you mention to Mr Ban Ki-Moon?

- Our request directed to the UN Secretary-General and the heads of states concerns article three of the Universal Human Rights Declaration, signed in Paris on 10 December 1948, so exactly 60 years ago. It says that ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.’ The signatories of the letter think that this article should be modified in the following way, ‘Everyone has the right to life from conception to natural death, to liberty and the security of person.’ Naturally, this is not an easy task but it is worth dedicating your life. Furthermore, I think that there are big changes in the contemporary world; one can feel a new climate. The influence of some ideologies and the pressure of conformism are decreasing. That’s why, I think that although the task is difficult it is not impossible. The first step would be to acknowledge that all abortion practices, the elements of the demographic policy characterised as mass contraception, which makes the birth of million girls impossible, are illegal.

- The Church supported your initiative of the moratorium about abortion immediately...

- From my point of view, the reactions of the Church were wonderful, especially when you consider the matter as the war that the Church, proclaiming sanctity of life, has waged for 2,000 years. As early as in the Letter to Diogenes, one of the oldest Christian documents, it is written that Christians differ from pagans in that ‘they do not abandon their children.’ Therefore, I do not consider myself as the initiator of this movement - the Church, the Christian thought, is the initiator. The fact is that a big ‘movement of consciences’ has come into being, which is testified by the numerous letters sent to my daily and many other papers.

- What were the reactions of your environment, i.e. the secular and liberal one, to your ‘provocation’?

- I have noticed three types of reactions in these environments, in my environments. The first one is shameful: the reaction of those who distort my words, those who are afraid of confronting the idea and resort to personal attacks instead of discussion. Unfortunately, it was a very common reaction in the secular world since it went into panic. The fact that some anti-abortion movement originated inside it pushed it into an existential, cultural and psychological crisis; this world has seen it as an attack against its identity. The second type of reaction is the stand of those who try to discuss and they fail. They acknowledge the fact that abortion means eliminating some beings but they presuppose that this fact should have no consequences since only pregnant women have the last word about this issue. They want this issue to concern only individuals’ consciences. Finally, the third group embraces those who have reacted by undertaking an honest dialogue. Those were Catholic feminists and more opened secular environments. It is a minority but I count on these people very much, hoping that they will continue this big cultural debate and will invalidate extreme and radical positions.

- What concrete steps should our readers take to support your moratorium about abortion?

- First of all, they should initiate committees for the cause of the moratorium in their work places, schools, parishes and religious movements. One can find the text of my letter to the UN Secretary-General on various web sites. You should sign it and send to the UN Headquarters (our web site: moratoria@ilfoglio.it). Moreover, you should contact your members of the Parliament and of the Senate, politicians, trade union leaders to discuss the issue of the moratorium. I also think that you should promote as contemporary heroes those who help pregnant women in various centres in the material, psychological and spiritual way.

- To end our conversation I would like to thank you for your sincerity and intellectual courage thanks to which you were able to begin a serious discussion about abortion in various environments, including the liberal ones. Unfortunately, the Church, Catholics and pro-life movements, which opinions are ignored or distorted, have not always succeeded about this issue as if the defence of life were a problem of confession, only connected with Christian morality, and consequently, meaningless to the modern society.

"Niedziela" 11/2008

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl