On the 4th of October 2018 the municipal council of Verona agreed on approving a motion, which will declare the Italian city a “pro-life” constituency. The motion commits Verona to financing Catholic associations which are conducting anti-abortion initiatives across the region for abortion prevention and motherhood support. At the same time the decision triggered protests among the citizens of the province and pro-choice groups worry that other cities across the country and Europe might imitate Verona’s example.
The approved motion relies on the legislation n194, first promulgated in 1978, which regulates access to abortion in Italy. The law legalizes abortion, but states that doctors and medical staff can exercise their conscientious objection and refuse to provide the service.
Although multiple parties of the council supported the decision, the primary endorser was Alberto Zegler, a member of the Northern League Party, who defined abortion as an “abominable crime”.
For years Verona has been governed by the The Northern League, a party which follows a conservative right-wing line often compared to Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France or the AfD in Germany.
The Northern League’s original program called for independence of the Northern regions of Italy and had hateful stands towards workers coming from Southern Italy. However, since 2011 it has strategically changed its electoral program in order to appeal to the fears of the wider public concerning the increase in migration flows from the Mediterranean. Given the right-wing conservative winds felt across Europe, many pro-choice advocates fear that Verona will be the gateway for other Italian cities and Europe as well.
Aside religious and political considerations, the motion misuses the word life in order to undermine the right to choose. Discouraging or removing women’s access to abortion will not make it disappear, on the contrary in absence of safe facilities, women will turn to dangerous alternatives, which often put their lives at risk.
The decision by the council, has triggered protests in the days following the approval of thousands of men, women and students of all ages. Protesters from the feminist group “Non una di meno”, “No-one less” (in Italian “one” is used in the feminine) took the streets of Verona wearing costumes inspired by the series “the Handmaid’s tale”, which has become a symbol against violence against women violence and the exploitation of women’s body across the world.
More recently, in Milan the same motion was rejected, which gives a flash of hope that Verona may represent an isolated case.