Italian ruling coalition plan would curb abortion rights, critics say

FILE PHOTO: International Safe Abortion Day in Rome

ROME (Reuters) -A proposal by Italy's right-wing ruling coalition that would allow groups who "support motherhood" into abortion clinics will make it easier for anti-abortionists to harass women and limit their rights, critics of the move said on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy party attached an amendment this week to allow such groups into publicly-run family clinics to a bill focused on the country's post-COVID recovery plan.

The Democratic Party (PD) and the Five Star Movement, Italy's main opposition parties, have denounced the amendment as an assault on abortion rights, which have been legal in traditionally Catholic Italy since 1978.

"Putting anti-abortionists in clinics is like giving hospital management to no-vax people," said Francesco Boccia, from the PD party.

The Brothers of Italy say it is not intended to reduce abortion rights but to give women options.

"The goal is to offer (women who want to terminate a pregnancy) an opportunity for reflection, at no cost to the state, as already foreseen by law," Fabio Rampelli, a senior Brothers of Italy lawmaker, said.

Meloni is staunchly anti-abortion, but pledged during the general election campaign in 2022 that her government would not diminish abortion rights.

The lower house of parliament passed the amendment on Tuesday and is slated to approve the entire law on Thursday. The bill is expected to be given final approval by the Senate at a later stage.

Spanish Equality Minister Ana Redondo weighed in on X on Wednesday, calling the plan "organised harassment against women who want to terminate a pregnancy."

In response, Meloni said she had listened several times to foreign ministers talking about domestic Italian issues without knowing the facts.

"Normally when one is ignorant about a subject one should at least have the good sense not to lecture," Meloni was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

Family clinics, which are part of the national health service, offer women sexual health, pregnancy and maternity support and services, including medical consultations and prescriptions.

What the amendment prescribes is already a reality in some Italian regions, where local right-wing administrations have offered funding to anti-abortion associations and allowed them to operate in family clinics.

(Writing by Francesca Piscioneri and Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Alvise Armellini, Christina Fincher and Rosalba O'Brien)