Saturday, February 16, 2008

Italians Rally to Defend Abortion Law

ROME (AP) — Hundreds of women rallied in Rome and Naples on Thursday to protest police interrogation of a woman after she underwent an abortion and to oppose a campaign push by some conservatives to change Italy's abortion law.

State television said at least one woman was detained by police after protesters scuffled with officers when they tried to move the rally to a square in central Rome.

Health Minister Livia Turco emerged from her office earlier in a show of solidarity with demonstrators, who held placards proclaiming that "Women do the choosing" and other slogans.

Turco has denounced an incident earlier in the week when police rushed into a Naples hospital to interrogate a woman who had aborted a 21-week-old fetus minutes before. The 39-year-old woman says she had the abortion after learning the fetus had a grave genetic defect. News reports said the aborted fetus was seized as evidence.

The police investigation came amid a drive seeking to limit the point in a pregnancy when abortion should be allowed. Proponents of limits claim medical advances mean 21-week fetuses can sometimes survive.

Abortion after three months is allowed in Italy when a pregnancy is deemed a grave danger to a woman's mental or physical health.

Abortion through the end of the third month of any pregnancy was legalized in 1978, and three years later Italians voted to keep the law despite opposition from the Vatican.

But abortion has become an issue in the campaign for parliamentary elections April 13-14.

Conservative former premier Silvio Berlusconi says he wants the United Nations to approve a worldwide moratorium on abortions. Newspaper editor Giuliano Ferrara sharpened the debate by announcing he will run for Parliament on an anti-abortion platform.

Berlusconi's opponent for the premiership, center-left candidate Walter Veltroni, was quoted by the Italian news agency Apcom on Thursday as defending Italy's abortion law. He cited statistics showing a drop in abortions since 1978 and said the law also "wiped out the plague of clandestine abortions which caused so many deaths among women."

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