Abortion Gives Italy Europe's Lowest Birthrate

Author: Fr. Paul Marx, OSB


by Fr. Paul Marx, OSB

In 1978 the Italian Parliament passed a law allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and up to 20 weeks for health, both physical and psychological. In 1984 there was a referendum on abortion; the text of the referendum, unfortunately, was most confusing, and while most Italians were against abortion and most likely would have voted against it, as a matter of fact, only 30 percent did vote no. So the Italians have virtually abortion-on-demand.

Italian abortionists kill about 300,000 babies per year. is Italy's national pro-life movement, neither very active nor very strong. In Italy there are no prayer vigils in front of hospitals doing abortions, no sidewalk counseling, no picketing/witnessing; there is little preaching against it.

Padre Pio, who died in 1968, always maintained that the prayers of children are most pleasing to the Lord, and very important in the redemption of the world. Out of that grew the "White Army" of thousands of children praying for the unborn in the spirit of Fatima. In 1989 a disciple of Padre Pio, P. Andrea D'Ascanio, O.S.F. Cap., organized a program whereby aborted babies are retrieved from hospitals, placed in small white coffins, reverently carried through the streets with prayer, and then duly buried with full ceremony. These ceremonies are carried on in Abruzzo, Sardinia, Lombardy, Cosenga and other areas.

A law in Italy allows any part of the body amputated to be buried if requested. On that basis, pro-lifers demand the bodies of aborted babies. Hospitals reluctantly surrender them; they would rather incinerate them. Medical personnel involved, obviously, are not very happy with this law and these burials. But the ceremonial burials in cemeteries have enormous witness value, and remind the all-too-indifferent Italians of the killing going on.

At each burial site there is a small cross. One group of these White Army workers told me that from a particular government hospital in Milan, they had buried 65 aborted babies since last February. No abortions are done in Catholic hospitals. For some priests this retrieval of aborted babies and their ceremonial burial is "too radical." The request for such retrievals, by the way, must be made within 48 hours after the abortion, to bury the remains of a 1 2-week suction abortion. The miscarried unborn babies are routinely buried, if requested.

Meanwhile, affluent Italy has surpassed Germany with the lowest birthrate in the Western world: 1.22 children per family (2.2 needed for reproduction).The reasons for this are multiple: affluence; the pervasive anti-life media picturing the ideal woman as slender, young, attractive—far removed from the typical, plump of yesteryear with her many ; increasing numbers of women working; the tendency of young Italians leaving the family nest later; and later marriage or just living together without benefit of marriage.

In Italy, however, only 5 percent of married couples divorce, the lowest in Europe, compared to 50 percent in Denmark. Last year Camillo Cardinal Ruini said that the low birthrate was Italy's and the Church's greatest problem. Ruini started a campaign "for the third child." Fun-loving Italians reacted with a yawn. By the time they wake up, it may be too late.

Taken from the August 1995 issue of "HLI Reports." To subscribe contact: HLI Reports 7845 Airpark Road, Suite E Gaithersburg, MD 20879