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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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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.

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