Growing pro-life activism in southern Europe
The pro-life movement in Europe has had some notable successes the previous year with the marches for life held in Italy, Spain, and France.
During the weekend of May 12-13, 15,000 showed up for the March for Life in Rome. As reported by LifeSiteNews, the organizers of the march expected the numbers to be three times less and many of the participants came from outside Italy. In 2011, only 600 people showed up for the march. This year’s event had a large visible group of young priests, seminarians, and nuns, as well as a large gathering of Poles who came to Rome to take part.
Alberto Carosa, a march organizer and head of Culturale Lepanto (a Catholic campaign organization) said that their purpose was to force Italian politicians to consider the abortion issue again. “The people are de facto demanding a clear commitment for a battle leading to the scrapping of the abortion law, but politicians have already made it clear that a parliamentary battle in this regard is out of the question,” he told LifeSiteNews.
Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro, the director of the Rome office of Human Life International, said that “regrettably in Italy, there is a sector of the pro-life movement that is not ready to take a strong position in favour of complete abolition. They say this is not ‘politically possible’.” Because of the march, “there will be a new balance because so far, the different groups that are in favour of abolition, have had small presence, and this will push them forward into the lead on the issue.”
Since 1978 abortion has been allowed on-demand for the first 90 days of pregnancy in Italy.
On March 27 in Madrid, over 150,000 people, many of them families, marched to celebrate life and protest an abortion law from 2010 that allowed for abortion on demand for the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and for the first 22 weeks in cases of rape, fetal abnormality, and risk to maternal health. They were joined by thousands of other demonstrators in more than 80 other Spanish cities.
“We are here to return to the dignity of the individual at the heart of democracy,” Dr. Gador Joya, a spokesperson for Derecho a Vivre (Right to Live) deckared. “We are here, once again, because we do not accept that the life of the most vulnerable is the subject of political experiments.”
In 2009, when the abortion law was proposed by the socialist government, Agence France-Press reported that 100,000 marched in Madrid and organizers estimated that there were 500,000 throughout the whole country. The new Spanish government of conservative moderates elected in late 2011 has since announced that it will roll back Spain’s radical liberalization of abortion laws.
On Jan. 22, in Paris, around 25,000 people marched in support of life, a large increase from the attendance at the first march in 2004. The event has experienced an increase in support from the Catholic Church hierarchy since Pope Benedict XVI sent messages of support in 2011 and 2012. More than 30 bishops endorsed the march this year, including Cardinal André Vingt-Trois who, in November, reversed his previous disapproval of the event. The Paris March for Life demanded “laws for life,” support for the traditional family, and the end of laws that undermine respect for human life. Currently, the abortion law in France allows for abortion on-demand until the twelfth week of pregnancy with exceptions in cases of maternal physical or mental injury or an incurable illness on the part of the child, when it is allowed much later in pregnancy.
Benjamin Izarn, president of Etudiants Pro-Vie and a spokesperson for the march, told The Interim in an e-mail that the growth in attendance was because of “better communication on the part of the group of organizers and above all word of mouth (from past participants) that made this march the central gathering of all of the defenders of life.”
According to Izarn, “our only source of inspiration which gives us the capacity to organize ourselves, to dare to debate politicians the whole year…to continue, come hell or high water, while we are at it…was the fact that one has to revolt against the profound social injustice that is 220,000 annual abortions.”
The pro-life movement in France, though, will face significant challenges after Nicolas Sarkozy lost the presidency to socialist candidate François Hollande, whose platform includes totally reimbursing women for abortions using social security, legalizing euthanasia, and allowing for gay couples to adopt children. “In the face of such vital dangers, we cannot be silent,” wrote Izarn. “We refuse to make the cowardly choice of resignation… we will do all that we can so that such human tragedies will be avoided.”