By Jonathon Van Maren
On October 4, 2018, the Verona city council voted 21 to 6 to declare the hometown of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to be “a city in favour of life.” Included in Motion 434 was an initiative to give public funds to pro-life organizations, working municipally to encourage women facing crisis pregnancies to put the babies up for adoption, and to “prevent abortion and promote motherhood.” Put forward by Councillor Alberto Zelger on the 40th anniversary of Italy’s 1978 legalization of abortion (during the first three months), it garnered the support of Mayor Frederico Sboarina and even Carla Padovania, leader of the centre-left Democratic party.
Italy has seen a ten-year decline in abortion, and Motion 434 will in all likelihood assist that decline further. “Sometimes just a little economic aid or the prospect of a job is enough to give a woman in difficulty the peace of mind needed to look after her child,” Zelger noted. Verona will use city funds to offer monthly payments to women who reject abortion. Unsurprisingly, abortion activists from the organization Non Una di Meno (Not One Less) promptly headed over to city hall dressed as “handmaids” in blood-red to protest women being given public money to care for themselves and their children.
Motion 434 states explicitly that “the life of every person from conception until natural death should be welcomed and protected in all its aspects”, and states that Italy’s abortion law has “contributed to the use of abortion as a mode of contraception,” resulting in 6 million missing babies. Over 70% of Italian doctors refuse to perform abortions, and Italy’s minister of families Lorenzo Fontana is pro-life and has stated that doctors should be given more freedom to discourage women from having abortions. Incidentally, he also happens to be the former vice-mayor of Verona.
I reached out to the sponsor of Motion 434 Councillor Alberto Zelger to ask him a few questions about his passion and his plans. Here is our exchange:
What fuels your passion for the pro-life cause?
The right of every child to be born after it has been conceived, because no one can deny that it is “One of Us,” even if it is small and defenseless. Its suppression is an act of force against those who can not defend themselves against an unrepeatable human being, which is always a gift from God to humanity, even when it is the result of rape or bears signs of the disease. We must oppose the culture of death, the result of the neo-Malthusian ideology and the utopia of human omnipotence, which would have prevented the birth of even Ludwig Van Beethoven, Giacomo Leopardi, Andrea Boccelli, Tim Tebow, John Paul II; a culture that has its roots in barbarism and has developed with eugenics, which has already led some countries to demographic decline. I remember what Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: “Abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace because, if a mother can kill her own child, what prevents me from killing you and you killing me? There is no longer any obstacle.”
What have you done to make Verona a pro-life city?
Verona has always been particularly sensitive to the defense of life, despite the strong opposition of a few pro-choice fighters. There are many associations that help people and families in need; but to combat the supporters of death (abortion, euthanasia) it is necessary to promote a culture of life, to launch convincing messages, to speak to the heart and to the reason of the people, because the truth is always in favor of life. Many unfortunately are unprepared and are afraid to stand up publicly. For this reason I have promoted conferences and round tables, motions and public demonstrations; and I fought with reason [those] who preached a culture of death, always supported by personal prayer and the prayer of many friends. Sometimes I have reached the goal, sometimes not. But even the defeats help to adjust the shot, provided we do not get discouraged.
What has the response been so far?
People mostly follow me (just go ahead with decision) and then there are many pro-lifers in Verona. Instead, the media are almost always lined up on the opposite side. The proponents of death are in the minority, but still resists a gray area, which justifies abortion and euthanasia in some cases, often only because of ignorance or ideological conditioning. It is in this field that we must fight, with tenacity, with information and with prayer
What sort of pro-life initiatives are going on at a city-level?
In Verona there are many groups that pray for life; others like me promote life in public and in institutions; others still help women in need, the elderly and the disabled. We often try to unite for common goals. Sometimes we can do it, sometimes not.
What are your future plans?
One of the next goals is to give a worthy burial to aborted children, to launch a strong public signal that is not a “lump of cells”, but a human being, “one of us,” that deserves respect even if small and defenseless.
A second objective is the information to women who ask the abortion on possible alternatives: adoption in anonymity, economic support, help in job search, psychological assistance and volunteer material; but also information on the psycho-physical consequences of abortion and on the biological reality of the child that one would like to abort (ultrasound, heartbeat).
A third objective is an increasing participation in the National March for Life of 18 May 2019 in Rome (IX edition).
A fourth objective is the organization of the XIII World Congress of Families, promoted by the International Organization of the Family and the Pro Vita Onlus Association, to be held on 29-30-31 March 2019 in Verona.
A fifth objective is to fight the introduction of euthanasia, which took its first steps in Italy with the approval of the law on living wills; we are trying to combat medical application protocols.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.