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Italy set to pass amendment allowing pro-life groups into family planning clinics 

Participants in Italy’s pro-life demonstration in Rome on May 21, 2022. / Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Rome, Italy, Apr 22, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

An amendment to a health care law that permits “nonprofits with experience providing maternity support” in family planning clinics, including pro-life groups, will be voted on by the Italian Senate on Tuesday, April 23, according to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.  

Amendment No. 44.028, a provision attached to a health care system law, part of Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), would allow local public health authorities to freely collaborate with qualified third-party consultants, including nonprofit organizations that specialize in pregnancy and maternity support, “without new or greater burdens on public finance,” according to the news site Centro Studi Livatino. 

Last week, the Brothers of Italy party, led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, introduced the amendment to the Chamber of Deputies, Italy’s lower house of Parliament. On April 18, the amendment passed by a vote of 140-91 and is also expected to pass the Senate, Italy’s upper house of Parliament, this week.

In relation to the inclusion of pro-life groups in pregnancy counseling centers, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said to journalists on Sunday: “We are in favor of life and of all those instruments that can affirm the right to life, especially for women in difficulty.”

Since 1978, abortion has been legal in Italy for the first 90 days of pregnancy. Women opting for an abortion — particularly for cases in which the pregnancy is beyond the first trimester — can obtain a certificate attesting to the health risk of her pregnancy from either a public or private health authority, including family planning clinics.

In addition, Article 31 of Italy’s constitution outlines the duty of the state to assist with “the formation of the family” through “economic measures and other benefits, and “protect mothers, children, and the young by adopting necessary provisions.” 

The prospect of having pro-life groups and associations provide counsel or services in family planning clinics continues to spur heated debate among the media as well as activist groups in Italy and across Europe.

According to Eugenia Roccella, Italy’s minister for the family, this amendment does not subvert, and is consistent with, Italy’s abortion law (Law 194/1978). 

Article 2 of the Italian abortion law already establishes that family counseling centers should “assist pregnant women” and help them “to overcome the factors which might lead the woman to have her pregnancy terminated.”

However, Gilda Sportiello, a member of Parliament representing the Five Stars Movement, argued that a woman should ultimately have the right to choose whether to be a mother or not. 

“No woman who wants to interrupt her pregnancy should feel attacked by the state,” she said after speaking out in Parliament about her choice to have an abortion 14 years ago.

Italian journalist Antonella Mariani offered a different view, saying this health care amendment would afford women more options, information, protection, and support when making their own decision about pregnancy.

“Those who truly care about women’s self-determination should consider that it is not one-way: That is, it does not only concern the freedom to have an abortion but also the freedom not to have an abortion,” she said, as reported on the Italian news site Avvenire. 

The Rosario Livatino Study Centre — a group of jurists inspired by the life and example of Blessed Rosario Livatino who research issues concerning family, the right to life, religious freedom, and legal matters — published an editorial written by one of its members in relation to the health care proposal.

A member of the center and a lawyer, Francesco Farri, according to Centro Studi Livatino, wrote that the amendment to be voted on in the Senate this week does not “innovate” but “confirms” current Italian law: “The 194, it should be remembered, does not only concern the voluntary interruption of pregnancy but also ‘norms for the social protection of maternity.’”

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