Anti-abortion forces seem to have been emboldened by the recent leak from the US Supreme Court. The leak apparently suggests that the court will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case, which secured abortion rights at the federal level.
In Italy, the right to abortion is just as complex as in the US. Abortion is legal and has been since 1978, when a hard-fought campaign by feminists and a key supreme court decision secured women the right to terminate a pregnancy in the first 90 days. A referendum in 1981 confirmed this right, with voters opposing repeal 2-to-1. But the reality is trickier. In practice, women find it difficult to obtain abortions. In particular, the law carves out an ability for medical staff to “conscientiously object” to performing abortions, something that 68% of gynaecologists do across the country; in some regions, the rates of objection are as high as 96%, making it practically impossible to obtain an abortion.
In Rome in May, this anti-abortion sentiment manifested in the Scegliamo la Vita (“we choose life”) rally, which marched through the city on 21 May. The feeling of the march was bizarrely jubilant; women and children marched alongside the predictable presence of men and priests, loudly singing and dancing away their right to bodily autonomy. The battles of the 1970s, which felt like they’d secured a permanent shift in society, clearly still need to be fought.