A Hymn to the life of a combative abortion-rights advocate

by Annalisa Lista - 2017.02.10
A Hymn to the life of a combative abortion-rights advocate
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In a few days, Per non tornare al buio. Dialoghi sull’aborto¹ (To keep from returning to darkness: Dialogues on abortion), by Livia Turco, will be out. Turco, has a long career behind her in the Italian Parliament (1983 – 2013) and was the country’s Minister of Health from 2006 – 2008. After having finished her book, we wanted to meet with her and chat about a few issues that peaked our interest.

Question: Livia Turco, what motivated you to write this book?
Answer: Actually, there were three reasons. First, to pass the baton to the newer generations, so they can continue a battle undertaken years ago. Second. Fear that we risk going back to darkness. Seeing as the gynecologists who fought so hard for 194 (Italian law passed in 1978, making voluntary abortion legal) are almost all retiring, while there is an increase of objectors among the new ones. Finally, the need to explain to young people that it is not their fault if they don’t have children, but the fault of a society that is not accommodating to motherhood.

Q: Isn’t it a bit strange that you are talking about abortion again, but, at a point in time when, Italy, like the rest of the world, is seeing the numbers of abortions continue to decrease?
A: It is exactly the opposite. It is important precisely now, to demonstrate the fact that it took the legalization of abortion to spread a culture of contraception, to communicate the importance of family counselling and of a diaglogue with gynecologists that mitigates the need to terminate pregnancy. Together with the fact that the law served to put an end to women hiding and bearing the burden of social stigma, and, instead, encouraged them to reflect in an independent and more mature manner, what it motherhood means.

Q: You, who are a determined woman of the Left, Catholic and an ardent defender of 194, how would you label, politically, someone like American, Scott Arbeiter, fervent Catholic, anti-abortionist, but who is, at the same time, is convinced that he is pro-immigrant?
A: To tell you the truth, coming from an Italian perspective, it is difficult to ascribe to him a political affiliation. Initially, the description that comes to mind is a conservative sui generis. Not a man of the Right, to be sure. Precisely because a person like him, who defends the right to Life at 360°, from conception to the protection of a refugee’s life, who, to save his life, had to flee his country because of war, and escape to another, is a man who is profoundly coherent with the pure essence of the principle of “Pro-Life”.

Q: In conclusion, I would like to ask you about an issue that West has addressed numerous times: the fate of male sexuality. Perhaps, the Women’s Movement put males aside, in a certain sense?
A: This notion, is in part true, and in part not. It is not true, in the way that I, personally, in my book, address men and women. Because, for me, the question of abortion is not only a female issue, but is of both sexes. Men too, need to be educated about contraception, the responsibility of being a parent, and risky sexual behaviors. In order to contribute to yet a greater decrease in women resorting to voluntary interruption of pregnancy. And, additionally, to the reduction of the tabù that they experience: turning to drugs and violence towards women to feel stronger. But, I have to admit, it is true that there is less attention given to the difficulties males have, and also, the sexual health of males in general, does not receive as much visibility as that of females.

Q: If you were Minister of Health today, what would you do for men?
A: I would look at three solutions. First of all, I would start with diaglogue in the family. With particular attention to the improvement of the mother-son relationship, to eliminate the sense of embarrassment and facilitate an environment where a son can feel free to talk about a problem. After that, I would make sure that sex education and consulting for males were obligatory in the schools. Finally, I would also make it obligatory for companies to offer fathers the same guaranteed time for family-leave that mother’s can choose. Which is already a reality in other, more advanced European countries.

¹Turco L., Per non tornare al buio. Dialoghi sull’aborto, Roma, Ediesse, 2016