The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Defending the right to abortion in Italy

Feb 13, 2006

Fifty thousand Italians demonstrated this January for abortion rights. They marched in both Milan and Rome, the two main cities of the country. Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978, but with several restrictions: the abortion can take place only in the first three months of pregnancy or if there is danger to the mother’s life or if there is a risk of birth defects in the fetus.

The Milan demonstration was organized by a group of union militants and feminists calling themselves “Let’s Emerge from Silence.” Some of the marchers held signs denouncing the interference of the Catholic Church. The church weighs heavily on many aspects of Italian politics. Yet two thirds of Italians polled, Catholic or otherwise, support the right of women to have an abortion.

Last summer, the Catholic hierarchy managed to stop the overturning of a law which prevents the use of the latest scientific methods to aid in fertility problems. Catholic priests, like many other religious leaders, tell their followers that an egg from a woman’s ovary is equal to a human being in law. And in November, the Catholic church began campaigning against the sale of the abortion pill mifepristone, known as RU 486.

The Catholic church also hopes to influence the Italian elections this spring. The prime minister promised, if re-elected, to put “pro-life activists” in every state-funded abortion clinic to “counsel” women. In other words, these male politicians and priests want to make it so difficult to obtain the abortion pill and so unpleasant at abortion clinics that women will be scared off from getting a legal abortion.

In other words, in Italy the Catholic church plays the same role it, along with Protestant fundamentalists, plays in this country. In fact, the Christian right in the U.S., supported by the current administration and many politicians, makes abortion more difficult to obtain here than in Catholic Italy. Since 1993 eight abortion providers in the U.S. have been murdered.

A leader of the Christian right in this country told his followers, as reported in a daily newspaper, that he wanted “a wave of hatred to wash over” his followers, encouraging them to attack abortion clinics. More than 4200 violent attacks on such clinics have been reported to police. And such attitudes have helped to close abortion clinics and scare off doctors. As of 2000, seven out of every eight counties throughout the rural parts of the U.S. had NO medical facilities where women could get an abortion.

Feminists and other defenders of the right of women to control their own bodies have started to oppose such attacks in Italy. People who would impose their reactionary views on all women need to be opposed everywhere. In this country, first of all.