Abortion major issue in Italian election

Abortion is playing a pivotal role in the upcoming Italian elections with front-runner former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi calling for a moratorium on abortions while a prominent journalist announced he would run on an anti-abortion ticket.

Catholic News Agency reports that Mr Berlusconi (pictured) said in an interview in weekly magazine Tempi that the UN should recognise the right to life from "conception until natural death".

Conservative journalist Giuliano Ferrara announced he's joining the race and would be running in a pro-life platform.

He said he did not know if Berlusconi, who Ferrara once served as a minister, would accept him in a centre-right coalition.

In response to Ferrara's proposal, Mr Berlusconi said": "I think that recognising the right to life from conception to natural death is a principle that the U.N. could make its own, just as it did with the moratorium on the death penalty."

Abortion has been legal for the first three months of a pregnancy in state hospitals in Italy since 1978. After more than three months into a pregnancy, abortion is legal only when the pregnancy is a "grave danger" to a mother's life.

A 1981 referendum attempted to overturn the law, but Italian voters upheld the abortion license.

In 2004, 136,715 women had abortions, compared with 234,801 in 1982. Italy's population is approximately 58 million people.

Italian politicians promote more restrictive abortion laws in election campaign (Catholic News Agency 13/01/08)

14 Feb 2008