Rocco Buttiglione, arguably Europe's leading Catholic politician, has given a very interesting interview to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, saying he no longer believes abortion should be made illegal. The former friend of Pope John Paul II and Communion and Liberation member remains passionately pro-life, but says "everyone" has changed since the 1970s battles over the legalization of abortion.
Those who favoured legalization have discovered, says Buttligione, "that the fetus is not a lump of blood in a woman's body", while those who, like him, opposed legalization, "recognize that we were wrong on one point."
"Let me explain it theologically. God gives the child to the mother in a very special way, such that to defend the child in opposition to the mother may be an act of justice, but it is impossible. We should instead support the mother, work to free her: the more free she is, the harder it will be for her to give up her child."
While the two politicians may differ in their beliefs, Buttliglione's emphasis on reducing abortions by supporting mothers is pretty much identical with President Obama's. What will the US pro-life movement make of this?
This looks like further evidence that the abortion debate is moving to new ground, away from the stalemate over the law.
Buttiglione also sees another change from the 1970s, when "there was talk of a demographic explosion, and people spoke of the need to give a dignified life to the new-born. Today, the problem is the opposite: within a few decades the population will stop growing, and in many countries it is already declining; the challenge today is to give a dignified life to old people."
The Christian Democrat was rejected as European commissioner in 2004 because of his strong Catholic views. He is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. His pro-family, pro-life credentials are more than impeccable.
Buttligione is creating an international network to reduce abortions, which would call initially for a moratorium on state-sponsored abortion which he is hoping President Obama will back.