Italy: Women demand ‘My body, my choice’

Issue 
Demonstrators march in defence of abortion rights, in Rome on May 26.

Thousands of women marched across Italy on May 26 to mark the anniversary of Italy’s 194 Law, which passed in 1978 and legalised abortion in the country.

Marchers fear that the far-right Northern League, which contains many anti-choice militants, may soon threaten the 194 Law. The League stands on the brink of forming a government with the Five Star Movement after elections in March.

The marches were organised by Rejected Objection and the Not One Less movement.

“Italian women’s battles over the past four decades show that any abortion law has to be founded on women’s freedom of choice — or it won’t work,”  Michela Pusterla, an Italian feminist involved in the Not One Less movement, wrote  in Jacobin on May 25.

“In Italy and elsewhere, as fascist and sexist anti-choice movements grow their presence in Parliaments and public hospitals, the fight for reproductive rights becomes larger than itself.

“It becomes a global fight for liberation; for another society based on autonomy and self-determination.”

The anti-abortion movement is strong, due in part to the strong influence of the Catholic Church.

Law 194 poses restrictions on the right to an abortion, including allowing medical professionals to refuse to carry out abortions on the grounds of conscientious objection. According to the Italian health minister, more than 70% of gynaecologists refuse to carry out the procedure.

Campaigners say the increased difficulty in accessing abortion is pushing more and more women to illegal, unsafe abortions or to travel abroad for the procedure.

[Abridged from Common Dreams.]