Huge anti-abortion poster removed from wall near Vatican after public outcry

Xavier Greenwood
The poster created by Pro Vita sparked controversy in Rome: AP/Angelo Carconi
The poster created by Pro Vita sparked controversy in Rome: AP/Angelo Carconi

Authorities in Rome have removed a large anti-abortion poster showing an 11-week-old foetus in the womb from a wall near the Vatican after a public outcry.

Beside the foetus was the message: “You are here because your mother has not aborted you.”

The poster was part of a campaign launched by the pro-life organisation Pro Vita Onlus ahead of the 40th anniversary of the legalisation of abortion in Italy, which falls on 22 May.

Pro Vita has described abortion laws as a way to “suppress unborn children” and called abortion pills a “human pesticide”.

The poster caused outrage among Italian pro-choice groups including Vita di Donna Onlus, which started an online petition for the poster’s removal.

Monica Cirinnà, a Democratic Party senator, wrote on Twitter: “It’s shameful that posters against a State law and the right of women to choose have been allowed to appear on the streets of Rome.”

Several members of the Democratic Party wrote a joint statement opposing the poster.

“These are images that offend the sensibility of all the people who have suffered the end of a pregnancy for the most different reasons,” it read. “To defend life with such raw and violent messages does not belong to the history of women or the city.”

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Giorgia Meloni, leader of far-right party Brothers of Italy, came out in support of the poster.

She congratulated Pro Vita on the campaign in a Facebook post and told them they were “on the right track”.

Pro Vita defended the poster, arguing it was intended to “shake millions of consciences”.

“The truth hurts and can sometimes make people hysterical,” it said.

In addition, the president of Pro Vita Onlus, Tony Brandi, spoke on local radio to defend the poster: "Let's talk about the free choice of women. Is the child, whose life begins with conception, a kidney? A liver? A lung? Organs with which we can do what we want? No, it's a child.

“If that poster were to be removed, the signal would be: ‘We are not in dictatorship, we are in tyranny. There is no more freedom of expression in Italy.’”

The poster was taken down on Friday afternoon to the delight of many campaigners.

Local activist group Aurelio In Comune posted a picture of the blank wall on Facebook with the caption: “Poster removed! We have won – completely!”

Pro Vita said that the government of Rome had taken away "the freedom to fight for life" by removing the poster.

Abortion is a divisive issue in Italy despite being legal since 1978.

Although legislation allows women to terminate their pregnancy in the first 12 weeks, doctors can decline to perform abortions for personal or religious reasons.

Seventy per cent of Italian gynaecologists decline to perform terminations, according to a 2016 report from the Italian health ministry.

Meanwhile those who terminate a pregnancy illegally face fines of up to €10,000 (£8,722).