Italians crowded through Rome, Milan, Palermo and other cities on Wednesday to defend abortion rights, which face a looming threat from a far-right party expected to lead the next government after leading general elections forms. A most significant development given the rise or consolidation of neo-fascism, which adheres to the abolition of abortion rights. Striking for the need of the hour.
The far-right party’s victory laid a platform for the revival of neo-fascism. Preventing abortion perpetuates women’s bondage and capitalist oppression.
More than 1,000 people waved banners reading “My body – My choice” and “Safe for all” and marched out of Rome’s Esquilino district and at least as many out of Milan’s main train station.
The marches included nationwide actions aimed at challenging Giorgia Meloni and her Friars of Italy party against any changes to the 1978 law known as Law 194, which guaranteed access to abortion. The protests coincided with International Safe Abortion Day.
Many stressed the restriction of abortion in many US states after the US Supreme Court scrapped a landmark law that had guaranteed access to abortion for decades in a reference to international trends.
Meloni “goes on saying that she doesn’t want to violate Law 194, but that she wants to guarantee a woman’s right not to have an abortion,” protester Donatella Marcelli said. “I don’t believe what she says about choices.”
Organizers said they fear Meloni’s party will introduce “a triad of ‘God, home and family'” policies – a reference to their political manifesto.
That could lead to “imposing rigid gender roles and assigning women the task of reproduction and growth of a white, patriarchal and heterosexual nation,” said the organizers in their statement to the rallies in confrontation with the agenda of Meloni becoming Italy would become the first far-right post-war prime minister and his first wife to hold the post.
The election dealt a crippling blow to veterans of successful civil rights struggles, including divorce and abortion, as well as lawmakers still fighting for freedoms like same-sex marriage.
Perhaps Italy’s most famous living civil rights activist, Emma Bonino, lost her Senate seat to a Roman councilwoman from Brothers of Italy, the party co-founded by Meloni a decade ago that glorifies motherhood and “traditional” families and condemns LGBTQ “lobbies”. Lavinia Munnino’s #1 campaign priority was to increase birth rates in Italy.
Bonino told AP by phone she was too busy Tuesday to prepare an appeal for a close-race recount to discuss civil rights concerns. During the campaign, Bonino expressed concerns that Meloni would make access to abortion more difficult.
Italy allows abortions on request in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or later if a woman’s health or life is at risk.
As a young woman, Bonino, now 74, led successful efforts to legalize abortion and divorce in the 1970s, both of which were aggressively opposed by the Vatican, which wields political influence in Italy.
Ahead of the Sept. 25 general election, Meloni said she would respect the 1978 law but would urge measures such as economic aid for women who choose to give birth rather than have an abortion.
The law allows health workers to register as conscientious objectors so they don’t have to perform abortions. In some regions, including one where Meloni’s party rules, the percentage of objectors is so high that it is imperative for women to travel to other parts of Italy to obtain an abortion, Bonino has noted.
Among other prominent figures defeated by right-wing candidates was Monica Cirinna, a Democratic Party lawmaker responsible for introducing a 2016 law legalizing same-sex partnerships. Italy was the last cave in western Europe to grant that status, but Cirinna was thwarted in her efforts to allow adoption by same-sex couples.
Alessia Crocini, leader of the Rainbow Families group, which campaigns for the rights of LBGTQ families, called Meloni’s victory “terrible news”. Human rights activists expected it, “but when something like this happens, it becomes real, it’s quite shocking,” she said.
“I’ve been an activist for a very long time and there are people I don’t know who write to me on Instagram: ‘I’m scared’, ‘I don’t know what to do’, ‘I’m really worried, I want to cry.'”
Crocini claimed Meloni’s goal is to “destroy the backbone of the LGBTQ movement.”
Also losing was Democratic Party Senator Emanuele Fiano. As the son of a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp during World War II, Fiano was exposed to the burgeoning of neo-fascist political movements. In a Senate district race in a Milan suburb, he was defeated by Isabella Rauti, a senator from the Brethren of Italy, whose late father, Pino Rauti, helped found the Italian Social Movement, a party that spawned Fascism, which was formed shortly after the end of the war .
Meloni did not comply with a request by Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre, who is a life senator, to remove the flame in the three colors of the Italian flag, owned by the Italian social movement, from her party’s symbol. While denouncing the anti-Jewish laws of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, Meloni held up the party’s symbol.
The election dealt a crippling blow to veterans who fought victorious struggles for civil rights, including divorce and abortion, and lawmakers who still speak out for freedoms like same-sex marriage.
A movement must emerge to get women to confront anti-abortion moves as part of capitalist exploitation as a whole, and not in isolation from the general opposition to economic exploitation.
Hard Thakor is a freelance journalist who studies people’s movements around the world.