‘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.


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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Italy’s ex-president Giorgio Napolitano dies aged 98

Giorgio Napolitano, the first person to be elected as president of Italy twice, has died at the age of 98, the presidential palace has confirmed.

Italy's ex-president Giorgio Napolitano dies aged 98

Official sources confirmed on Friday night that former president and communist, Napolitano, has died in Rome after weeks in hospital.

Undersecretary of State Alfredo Mantovano has ordered a state funeral on Tuesday, which will be accompanied by a national day of mourning, according to Italian news agency Ansa.

In office between 2006 and 2015, Napolitano was considered a stalwart of stability during a particularly turbulent period in Italy – from the truncated premiership of Romano Prodi to the curtailed mandates of Silvio Berlusconi, Mario Monti and Enrico Letta.

The country also experienced its gravest economic recession since the post-war period.

In 2013, Napolitano agreed to serve an unprecedented second term amid a fierce political deadlock, but resigned two years later because of his advancing age, opening up the post to Sergio Mattarella.

Italy’s current president, Mattarella, wrote, “I am deeply saddened by his death” and “I extend to his family the condolences of the entire nation”.

“In Giorgio Napolitano’s life, is mirrored a large part of the history of the second half of the 20th century, with its dramas, its complexity, its goals and its hopes,” he added.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella

Italian president Sergio Mattarella began formal consultations to form a new government on Thursday. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Former Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, described Napolitano as “an absolute protagonist of Italian and European history over the last seventy years”.

At the opposite end of the political spectrum, Italy’s currently serving far-right prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, expressed her condolences on behalf of the government.

Born in Naples on June 29th, 1925 into a family of intellectuals, Napolitano took part in the resistance against Nazi and fascist troops during World War II, founding a communist group.

At the end of the war, he joined the Italian Communist Party and was elected to parliament in 1953 after earning a law degree.

Napolitano was one of the most influential leaders of the party’s reformist wing, although he notoriously supported the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956 to crush a liberal revolution.

With the collapse of the USSR, the Italian Communist Party was officially disbanded in 1991.

After turns as lower house speaker, interior minister and leftwing MEP, he became Italy’s first ex-communist to be elected president in 2006.

The veteran held the rare quality of being respected by both right and left and an ability to stay above the party political fray.

He is survived by his wife, Clio, whom he married in 1959, and his two sons Giovanni and Giulio.