The Italian Almanac

Monica Bellucci Sabrina Ferilli

Italian News - June 4

This week Pope Benedict XVI stepped into politics for the first time since his election six weeks ago, endorsing calls to voters from Italy’s Roman Catholic bishops to boycott a referendum on the country’s fertility laws. Addressing the bishops, the Pope said that easing restrictions on assisted fertility treatments would pose a threat to life and the family. The present law, passed last year, restricts the provision of fertility treatment to stable heterosexual couples and excludes single women or same-sex couples. It also restricts surrogacy and research using human embryos, forbids sperm and egg donation, and limits the number of embryos created with in-vitro techniques to three.

The referendum, the work of liberals who regard the law as oppressive and fundamentalist, seeks to lift the ban on embryo research, remove limits on the number of eggs that can be fertilized, lift the ban on egg and sperm donors and remove language giving fertilized eggs full legal rights. With a week to go to the vote, the walls of Italian cities are plastered with posters for the “yes” campaign, backed by the actresses Monica Bellucci and Sabrina Ferilli.

Monica Bellucci, who had her first child last year at the age of 36 with her husband, Vincent Cassel, the French actor, posed naked last year while heavily pregnant in the Italian version of Vanity Fair to highlight the campaign. She said that the law “creates an absurd situation, as if Italian science should stop and leave us trailing behind other countries”.

Sabrina Ferilli, as well known for her nude calendars as for her film and television appearances and consistently voted the archetypal Mediterranean beauty, said that she found it “intolerable that politicians should decide how and when one can have a child, or prevent having one”. The actress has adopted a businesslike image for the campaign, dressed in a buttoned-up leather jacket with her tumbling auburn hair tied back.