ROME — Cabinet Minister Loris Fortuna, considered the father of divorce and abortion legislation in Italy, has died of cancer in a Rome hospital.
Fortuna, who defied both the Vatican and thousands of predominantly Roman Catholic letter writers around the world, died Thursday at age 61.
He was a criminal lawyer, journalist and longtime Socialist legislator who had served since August in Socialist Premier Bettino Craxi's Cabinet as minister of relations with the European Economic Community.
He was best known for proposing his country's much-disputed divorce law in 1963, seeing it through, as a principal member of the Italian Divorce League, until its passage in 1970.
Later, as a member of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Parliament, Fortuna also was one of the sponsors of legislation allowing abortion in Italy, which passed in 1978.
Although the church in this predominantly Roman Catholic country bitterly opposed Fortuna's legislation, many of his fellow countrymen appeared to endorse his views.
In 1969 he was named Italy's man of the year in a national magazine poll. Pope Paul VI was runner-up.