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Italy: Thousands rally against anti-abortion conference

March 31, 2019

Pro-choice activists took to the streets of Verona to protest an anti-abortion conference attended by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. His coalition partner Luigi Di Maio described anti-abortion rhetoric as medieval.

Protesters demonstrate against an anti-abortion conference in Verona, Italy
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C.Martinelli

Tens of thousands of people marched through the northern Italian city of Verona on Saturday to protest an international anti-abortion conference.

The three-day meeting organized by the US-based World Congress of Families (WCF) started on Friday and featured Interior Minister Matteo Salvini as Saturday's key speaker.

Read more: Abortion laws under fire in Italy after death of Valentina Milluzzo

What you need to know:

  • Local newspapers estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 pro-choice activists demonstrated. Organizers put the figure nearer 100,000.
  • Salvini told the WCF that legalized abortion was not up for revision. Instead, the government should better respond to women's needs if they were seeking an abortion because of financial reasons, he said.
  • Italy's far-right Forza Nuova party was not an official participant at the congress, but it used it as a backdrop to announce plans to seek a referendum to make abortion illegal.
  • Other conference speakers included the president of Moldova, Igor Dodon, Hungary's ultra-conservative families minister, Katalin Novak, and Dmitri Smirnov, a senior figure in the Russian Orthodox Church.
Matteo Salvini
Matteo Salvini told the conference that abortion rights were here to stayImage: picture-alliance/AP/A. Calanni

Abortion belongs to 'Middle Ages'

Salvini's coalition partner Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the anti-Establishment Five Star Movement, spoke out against the views held by the World Congress of Families.

"The vision defended by this Congress in Verona is a vision of the world that belongs for the most part to the Middle Ages, which considers women as submissive," he said.

World Congress of Families: Founded in 1997 by Brian Brown, an American, the World Congress of Families has held an annual meeting since 2012. Its website states that its aim is to "affirm, celebrate, and defend the natural family as the only fundamental and sustainable unit of society."

Read more: Matteo Salvini: Sweeping to power with selfies?

Abortion in Italy: Abortion was legalized in more than 40 years ago in Italy, but right-wing politicians have been campaigning to have the law changed.

Who is Matteo Salvini? He has been deputy prime minister and interior minister since his right-wing League party formed a governing coalition with the Five Star Movement in June 2018. As interior minister, he has taken a hard line against migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

law/amp (AFP, AP, dpa)

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