Pope Benedict XVI Says Abortion Could Threaten Future of Europe, New York Times Reports
Pope Benedict XVI on Friday during a visit to Vienna, Austria, said abortion could threaten the future of Europe, the New York Times reports. The pope urged European governments "not to allow children to be considered as a form of illness" and to provide incentives to couples who have children in an effort to reverse the continent's declining fertility rate (Fisher, New York Times, 9/8). According to Reuters, the average total fertility rate in European Union countries is about 1.5 children per woman (Pullella, Reuters, 9/7).
Benedict said that the "fundamental human right ... is the right to life itself," adding, "This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right -- it is the very opposite." The pope proposed that rather than legalize abortion, governments create a "climate of joy and confidence in life ... in which children are not seen as a burden, but rather as a gift for all" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 9/7).
According to Reuters, Benedict's speech could have implications in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, in which abortion is expected to become a major campaign issue. In addition, the speech put the pope on a "collision course" with Amnesty International, which recently affirmed a new policy on abortion that supports a woman's right to the procedure under certain circumstances, Reuters reports (Reuters, 9/7).