- World News Desk
- SOCIETY & LIFESTYLES
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Recent events have thrown a spotlight on European attitudes toward abortion, raising the possibility of a showdown between some of the most influential powers on the continent.
On March 8, the Portuguese parliament passed a referendum relaxing the country’s legal limits on abortion. It is now awaiting the signature of Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who has described Portugal’s current abortion law as “backward.” The new law will allow abortions to be performed until the 10th week of pregnancy.
This new legislation is still strict in comparison to other European nations, but will put Portugal more in stride with the majority view of the European Union. Until this point, Portugal, with its population comprised mostly of Catholics, has kept its abortion laws in line with the beliefs of the Catholic Church.
This came on the heels of a shocking story from Italy, where a juvenile court judge gave the mother of a pregnant 13-year-old girl the legal authority to force her to terminate the unborn child. In the aftermath of the abortion, the girl was placed in a psychiatric unit after she threatened to commit suicide.
A recent public opinion poll in Poland (released by Polska Grupa Badawcza) showed that 52.4% of Poles support an amendment to their constitution that would ban abortion and euthanasia no matter the circumstances. Only 33.3% were opposed to the measure. This comes shortly after the Deputy Prime Minister called on the European Union to ban abortion altogether (Reuters).
Of course, the Catholic Church maintains a consistent stance against this “procedure.” Last December, its Permanent Observer to the United Nations announced the Vatican’s refusal to sign a UN document that supported the termination of unborn children with disabilities. At every opportunity, the Roman Church reaffirms its position, refusing to budge.
Nonetheless, the European Union has consistently favored the legalization of abortion, and persistently pressures other member states—Malta, Poland, Ireland—that do not line up with its view on the subject.
The pressure from the European Union to liberalize abortion laws does not stop with member states. Recently, Nicaragua, a Central American country comprised of a 90% Catholic majority, was told by a top EU official that either their ban on abortions must change or economic aid from the EU would be suspended.
The two greatest powers in Europe, the European Union and the Vatican, hold opposing views on this extremely volatile issue. The EU continues to pull away from the Vatican on this and other matters, urging—even demanding—others around the world to follow.
Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, John Paul II, have long called for Europe to return to its Christian—that is, Roman Catholic—roots. Will abortion become the pivotal point of contention between religious and secular forces? When will the Vatican throw down the gauntlet on this issue? And what happens when the irresistible force—the EU—meets the immoveable object—the Vatican?