The Italian Almanac

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Livia Turco

Abortion Law

Health Minister Livia Turco said there would be no changes to Italy's abortion law under the present government, rejecting recent calls to this effect. ''There can be a public debate but no changes to the law,'' said Turco, referring to the 1978 legislation which caused huge controversy among Italy Catholics by making abortion legal.

On New Year's Eve a top Italian cardinal, Camillo Ruini, called for the law to be revised in the light of recent scientific advances. The Italian Catholic Church fought against the 1978 law and Catholic parties campaigned for a referendum to abolish it. But when it came to the vote, Italians decided to keep it. On Tuesday the coordinator of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party publicly backed Ruini's call, promising to table a motion calling for changes in parliament.

The idea to make abortion more difficult has also drawn support from a few members of the Democratic Party, the largest party in the ruling centre-left coalition. But the health minister, herself a PD member, made it clear she would have nothing to do with changes to the so-called 'Legge 194'. ''Our law has ensured that from 1982 until now the number of abortions has been practically halved and clandestine abortions have stopped,'' she said.

Turco noted that the 194 law did not promote abortions, as many of its opponents suggested, but saw it as a last resort in certain situations when all attempts to avoid it failed. ''The law's primary objective is protection for mothers and the prevention of abortion through a network of family consultants,'' she said.