Thousands of people marched on Rome on Mother’s Day morning, 13 May, to demand the ban of abortion in Italy. They were “pro-life” militants, coming from different Catholic and right-wing organizations—among them, fundamentalist religious organizations such as Militia Christi, and the neo-fascist party Forza Nuova. But by far the most worrying thing – even if it does not come unexpected – is the patronage given by the Rome township to the demonstration. Rome mayor, Gianni Alemanno, was at the head of the rally, together with placards like “194: 5 million dead already,” “Stop silent genocide,” “Abortion is murder.”
The demonstrators were referring to the law that made abortion legal and freely available in public hospitals: law 194, approved in 1978 after long feminist and pro-laicist struggles. For years this law has not been fairly applied, as members of Catholic organizations have reached very powerful positions in public administration and in both public and private health care structures. In many hospitals throughout Italy abortion is no longer available due to the high number of objectors, and even when it is, women have to clear enormous hurdles.
The “pro-life” militants are striving to reach the same visibility and importance they have in the USA. And as they do in the United States, they often act violently, insulting women outside health care structures and using pictures or fake foetuses to scare them. Members of the Forza Nuova party are infamously known – among other things – for having answered “Rape them, they’ll abort” to some women protesting against them.
The Democratic Party senator Maria Pia Garavaglia had initially announced she would be present at the demonstration, but then decided not to go because the event “was being exploited by some political forces,” and a topic as important as the ban of law 194 must be tackled seriously. Many right- and centre-wing politicians, including ex-Minister Maurizio Gasparri, had no such qualms. While the politicians paraded, young street fundraisers, hired just for the occasion, worked to collect money and support to the cause.
The feminist organizations in Rome protested the rally, warning about the attack against women’s right to choose, about the attack against their health, and about the risk of a return to illegal abortion.
- [en] text Women denied rights in Italy