Italy Elections Focus on Abortion as April Polling Date Gets Closer

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 29, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Italy Elections Focus on Abortion as April Polling Date Gets Closer Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 29, 2006

Rome, Italy ( — Abortion is an election issue in Italy for the first time in 25 years and politicians there are putting the abortion issue front and center in their campaigns. The elections take place on April 9 and 10 and the results could affect legislation on abortion, trials of the RU 486 abortion drug and the direction of the nation’s bioethics laws.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is making a concerted effort to appeal to Catholic voters who take the Church’s pro-life views seriously. He’s said he’s going to abstain from having sex until after the elections.

But Romano Prodi’s moderate-liberal coalition is using a morality and religious-based message as well to appeal to voters.

Both campaign are making abortion advocates in the European nation worry about the direction of the country.

Legalized in 1978, abortion is a central issue and though it is legal it is sometimes difficult for women to have abortions. Doctors in Italy are increasingly opting against performing abortions, according to a BBC News report.

The British news agency reported on the case of one woman who wanted an abortion who flew to Spain for it after 10 doctors told her they would not perform it. In addition, a hospital in the city of Bergamo has allowed a local pregnancy help group to set up shop inside and it frequently helps women choose abortion alternatives.

Abortion advocates are upset that politicians are moving closer to the Catholic Church and pro-abortion groups rallied in January in Milan to protest.

Part of the debate centers on the dangerous abortion drug RU 486, which is responsible for the deaths of ten women worldwide and injuring over 850 women in the United States alone.

Health Minister Francesco Storace, of the right-wing National Alliance party, opposes making the drug legal. He also wants the government to allow pro-life groups to help with counseling women considering abortion and providing them with alternatives.

Lawmakers in the Italian parliament are even considering a proposal to pay pregnant women with unplanned pregnancies to avoid abortions.

Since legalizing abortion, the European nation has seen falling birth rates and underpopulation since then. Some officials are concerned that the birth rate is below replacement level.

In 2003 the fertility rate — the number of children per woman of childbearing age — was only 1.27, one of the lowest in the world.

Abortions have been declining, dropping from 234,801 abortions in 1982 to 136,715 in 2004 but pro-life advocates would like to drive that number down even further.