Controversial law allowing anti-abortion activists into clinics reaches Italy's Senate

People stage a protest on 'International Safe Abortion Day', Milan, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022.
People stage a protest on 'International Safe Abortion Day', Milan, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. Copyright Luca Bruno/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Luca Bruno/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved
By Tamsin PaternosterEuronews
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The highly contentious legislation, introduced by the governing Brothers of Italy, has been condemned by critics as a blow to women's rights.


Protests have erupted in Rome after the lower house of Italy's parliament passed new legislation allowing anti-abortion activists to enter abortion clinics.

The measure, passed by Meloni's far-right Brothers of Italy party, is part of a package of initiatives that are funded by the European Union's post-Covid recovery fund, and is supposedly an attempt at “involving non-profits with experience providing maternity support in family planning clinics”.

The amendment was approved by the lower house last Thursday by a margin of 140 votes to 91, and will be voted on by the Italian Senate. 

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni claims the measure will provide women with information around financial assistance and welfare arrangements available to them. Her party has insisted that the amendment isn't a change, but merely clarifies aspects of the law that originally legalised abortion.

Critics have heavily criticised the amendment, saying that it will make it easier for anti-abortion activists to intimidate women who are considering getting an abortion. 

Abortion was legalised up to 90 days of pregnancy in 1978 under what's known as "Law 194". Women getting an abortion in Italy must obtain a certificate a health authority, including family planning clinics, outlining why her pregnancy causes a health risk.


Politicians across Europe in favour of abortion rights have hit out at the legislation. The European Socialists Party's lead candidate for the European Parliament elections, Nicolas Schmidt, wrote on X that the proposal is "a slap to the fundamental right to access safe abortion".

Francesco Boccia, of Italy's opposition Democratic Party, posted on Facebook that the the Brothers of Italy "were playing with the rights and freedom of women".

Spain's Equality Minister Ana Redondo also weighed in, calling the proposal "organised harassment of women" and that it was undermining "a right recognised by the law".

Meloni’s party maintains it does not want to revoke Italy's abortion law, but instead wants to allow "collaboration by suitable groups and voluntary associations so as to help overcome the reasons why a woman might decide to terminate a pregnancy”.

Pro Vita, Italy's biggest anti-abortion organisation, told Italian media that they did not intend to enter abortion clinics, but that they nonetheless hoped clinics would "return to their original function of helping women find concrete alternatives to abortion".

Polarisation and prohibition

The amendment follows a general trend where access to abortion has become increasingly convoluted in Italy.

Doctor's in the historically Catholic country can refuse to perform the procedure based on moral or religious grounds. According to numbers released by the Italian Health Ministry in 2021, over 60% of gynaecologists in the country refuse to carry out an abortion.

Several regions in the country, such as the Brothers of Italy-led regions of Marche and Umbri have also restricted access to the abortion pill.

Italy's policy stands in contrast to other countries in Europe such as France, where lawmakers voted in March to make abortion a constitutional right. 

Yet many hard-right pan-European parties, such as the European Conservatives, have called for restrictions on abortion rights. Other parties, such as the European People's Party, are divided on the issue despite broadly agreeing that abortion should be legal.

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