Home News Italy’s new abortion law is a lesson for Meloni’s way of governing

Italy’s new abortion law is a lesson for Meloni’s way of governing


At a family counseling center in Verbania, a leafy lakeside town in northern Italy, staff not only explain abortion rules to women but also hand out leaflets provided by local anti-abortion groups.

“Are you pregnant?” reads a flyer at the town’s Assisted Living Center. If you think your only option is abortion, it tells women who are considering abortion, “Contact us! We can talk about it together and it will make all the difference.”

Soon, this center and others like it may be about more than flyers. A measure introduced by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing party and passed by parliament on Tuesday could encourage anti-abortion groups to advertise inside family counseling centers to remind her conservative supporters that she is their became a member of the liberal movement and promoted the development of liberalism. The opposition went crazy – none of which actually changed much.

The measure is essentially a restatement of part of Italy’s 1978 abortion law, which legalized abortion while also emphasizing prevention. To this end, the law allows family counseling centers to use the “Maternity Protection” volunteer association to help women avoid terminating pregnancies due to financial, social or family difficulties.

But the new legislation and the changes it could trigger once again demonstrate Ms Meloni’s mastery of political messaging. As the first Italian prime minister with roots in a party born from the ashes of fascism, she assured a once-skeptical foreign policy establishment that she was a trustworthy, more-or-less mainstream partner willing to play nice in Brussels , and act as a reliable person. America’s ally against Russian aggression.

But political analysts say the domestic agenda she has pursued since taking power 18 months ago remains very much in line with her long-held beliefs and pleases her traditional base, but has yet to make major changes that could damage her international image.

“She is subtle,” said Gianfranco Pasquino, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Bologna. He added that Ms Meloni was seeking to shift Italian and European sentiment to the right without necessarily changing the law. “She’s a great politician.”

As well as the abortion measure, Ms Meloni is seeking to amend Italy’s constitution to allow citizens to directly vote for the prime minister. She said this would give Italy’s government more stability, which center-left parties are seeking. Her critics say it would remove checks and balances and create opportunities for potential future autocrats.

Her party has proposed making it a criminal offense for Italians to circumvent their country’s surrogacy ban by finding surrogates in countries that allow it, and her government has passed anti-immigration measures and proposed caps on non-Italian students entering classes.

Ms. Meloni, however, has proven difficult to pigeonhole.

Last week, public broadcaster RAI was accused of censoring a writer who planned to read an anti-fascist monologue on air that accused Meloni’s government of trying to rewrite history. Ms. Meloni disputes accusations of censorship, arguing that the author simply asked for too much money. She then posted the entire monologue on social media, a move that confused her critics.

On the issue of abortion, some politicians in Ms Meloni’s Brotherhood of Italy party have proposed giving legal rights to embryos. But here, too, she takes a different tack.

In an interview with The New York Times shortly before the 2022 election, Meloni said she took a “very deep approach” to the issue because her mother almost had her have an abortion after her father abandoned the family. . She said she has no intention of overturning abortion rights but wants to ensure women considering abortion have another option. The 1978 law provides for women to be given “all necessary assistance” to avoid surgery.

“I want to apply them all,” Ms. Meloni said, referring to the original law. “There’s a part of the abortion law that’s about prevention. That’s never been done.” She added that her hope was to “do whatever I can to help a woman who thinks abortion is the only way to do it.”

But even some who share her goals are skeptical of the value of the legislation passed Tuesday.

“My impression is that it’s not going to do much,” Laura Cristofari said. Her office is surrounded by bassinets, strollers and toys.Living Assistance Center” in Verbania. She said her organization already has an abortion space at the local hospital where activists can meet with women who are considering abortion.

Jacob Koger, president of the anti-abortion group Pro-Life and the Family, said that while he was pleased the government had reaffirmed the right of anti-abortion groups to participate in discussions with women considering abortion, his organization did not plan to enter counseling centers. He said he would rather focus on policy changes, such as fighting to require women seeking abortions to hear a fetal heartbeat before having one.

Some abortion rights activists also say the law won’t do much. Mirella Parachini, a gynecologist and long-time supporter of abortion rights, said the measure was an “announcement that won’t change anything,” adding that it was just “waving an ideological flag.” .

But other abortion rights supporters protested outside Parliament and said they feared the measure would embolden anti-abortion activists to target women seeking abortions.

Beatrice Lorenzin, a former health minister and now an opposition Democratic senator, said she was unsure whether anti-abortion groups had worked with family counseling centers in the past because of Italy’s regional health system. She said the measure would do little to clarify the protocols, including which groups are allowed in, who selects those groups and what they can do once inside.

Abortion rights campaigners also say there are already many practical barriers to abortion in Italy, where abortion is legal within 90 days of pregnancy and is legal for women who are in mental or physical danger or have severe fetal pathology.

Italian doctors could conscientiously object to the procedure, and many did.More than 60% of gynecologists – according to National Institutes of Health ——A conscientious objector to military service. According to statistics, in some southern regions, this number is even higher. a study.

Women have been able to use the abortion pill for the past four years, but outpatient treatment is not readily available in most areas.

(In a 2022 interview with The Times, when asked whether she was committed to making abortion safe and legal, Ms. Meloni said abortion “is already accessible, safe and legal.” When asked about conscientious objections to abortion, When the ratio was high, she said: “Look, I think if the doctor doesn’t want to do it, he can not do it, but there’s not a woman in Italy who wants an abortion who can’t find anyone to do it.”)

The new measure was included as a rider in a major COVID-19 relief spending bill, but it still raised concerns outside Italy. Ana Redondo, the equality minister in Spain, one of Europe’s most progressive governments, called it disgraceful.

“This is the strategy of the far right: to reverse rights and prevent equality between men and women through intimidation,” she wrote on social media.

Speaking to state news agency ANSA, Ms Meloni retorted: “On several occasions I listened to the foreign minister talk about domestic Italian problems without knowing the facts. Normally when a person knows nothing about an issue When you know it, you should at least have a wise judgment: don’t teach.”

Even some abortion opponents say the new Italian law has less to do with women’s rights than with electoral politics, with European Parliament elections due in June.

“In order to get votes, they put forward proposals that have no beginning and no end,” said Renata Natili Micheli, the president of one organization. catholic women’s association. She said the measure would only ignite an “ideological powder keg.”

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