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‘Hands off women’: Anger in Italy over Salvini’s comments on abortion

Italian medical professionals spoke out on Monday after right-wing opposition leader Matteo Salvini claimed that women go to emergency rooms for abortions because they live an "uncivilised lifestyle".

'Hands off women': Anger in Italy over Salvini's comments on abortion
Matteo Salvini brandishing the crucifix at an election rally in 2019. File photo: AFP

The comments from the ex-interior minister and League leader that some women having abortions were using emergency rooms “like health ATMs” came during a political rally in Rome on Sunday.

“Emergency room nurses in Milan let me know there are women who have shown up for the seventh time for an abortion,” Salvini told supporters.

READ ALSO: Italy's Senate has voted to send Salvini to trial. What happens now?

“It's not for me to judge, it's right for a woman to choose, but the emergency room can't be the solution for uncivilised lifestyles in 2020.”

The country's medical community cautioned that Salvini's comments were inaccurate as abortions are not performed in an emergency room.

The general secretary for the union of Italian doctors, Pina Onotri, told AFP it would be “impossible” for a woman to have an abortion in an emergency room unless it involved a miscarriage.

Gynaecologist Gisella Giampa at the Sandro Pertini hospital in Rome said Salvini was taking “rare cases” and generalising.

“Before speaking, he could inform himself, and, when one wants to be a statesman, not to take his information from one single nurse,” she said.

Just before this comment, Salvini had railed against “non-Italians” using emergency rooms for free, saying the “third time you have to pay.”

Anti-migrant diatribes regularly launched by Salvini, who maintains that he is a staunch Catholic, have increased his popularity among supporters.

READ ALSO:

Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978. The law allows women to terminate their pregnancies within three months of inception, with later-stage abortions permittable in some cases.

Women must request the procedure and then wait seven days to lower the chance of them later having misgivings, Italian law states.

But despite its legality, in reality women often find it nearly impossible to get an abortion because many Italian gynaecologists, legally allowed to be “conscientious objectors”, refuse to perform the procedure.

READ ALSO: An Italian woman was forced to go to 23 hospitals to have an abortion

Womens' rights activists said Salvini “seemed to be very confused about abortion judging by his comments.”

“The morning after pill is not a method of abortion, but of contraception,” Beatrice Brignone, equality activist and secretary of the left-wing Possibile movement, wrote on Twitter.

The head of Italy's Democratic Party (PD), Nicola Zingaretti, said Salvini's comments showed him increasingly desperate ahead of regional elections this spring where he hopes to win key regions of Italy for the League.

“Salvini mouths off even more every day because he's in trouble. With insults, outlandish theories and random numbers,” Zingaretti wrote on Facebook.

“Luckily, Italian emergency rooms don't listen to his provocations,” he said. “Get your hands off women.”

The spokesman for the Five Star Movement, which currently shares power with the PD, said women were Salvini's latest target.

“After migrants, gypsies and gays, Matteo Salvini now has it out for women who choose abortion,” Giuseppe Buompane said on Twitter.

Women taking part in a protest against the League in Milan in 2019. Photo: AFP

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EU

Italy’s Meloni hopes EU ‘understands message’ from voters

Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Saturday she hoped the European Union would understand the "message" sent by voters in last weekend's elections, after far-right parties such as hers made gains.

Italy's Meloni hopes EU 'understands message' from voters

Meloni, head of the post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, which performed particularly well in the vote, urged the EU to “understand the message that has come from European citizens”.

“Because if we want to draw lessons from the vote that everything was fine, I fear it would be a slightly distorted reading,” she told a press conference at the end of a G7 summit in Puglia.

“European citizens are calling for pragmatism, they are calling for an approach that is much less ideological on several major issues,” she said.

Meloni’s right-wing government coalition has vehemently opposed the European Green Deal and wants a harder stance on migration.

“Citizens vote for a reason. It seems to me that a message has arrived, and it has arrived clearly,” she said.

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Monday to negotiate the top jobs, including whether European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen will get a second term.

Von der Leyen’s centre-right European People’s Party strengthened its grip with the vote, but her reconfirmation is not yet in the bag.

The 65-year-old conservative was in Puglia for the G7 and likely used the summit to put her case to the leaders of France, Germany and Italy.

But Meloni refused to be drawn on whom she is backing.

“We will have a meeting on Monday, we’ll see,” she told journalists.

“We will also see what the evaluations will be on the other top roles,” she said.

Italian political watchers say Meloni is expected to back von der Leyen, but is unlikely to confirm that openly until Rome locks in a deal on commissioner jobs.

“What interests me is that… Italy is recognised for the role it deserves,” she said.

“I will then make my assessments.”

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani indicated that it was unlikely any decision would be made before the French elections on June 30 and July 7.

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