Page 2, 17th June 1977

17th June 1977
Page 2
Page 2, 17th June 1977 — Italy faces referendum on abortion

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Locations: Rome


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Italy faces referendum on abortion

From our correspondent in Rome

ANTI-ABORTION forces in the Italian Senate have overcome what appeared to be a clear pro-abortion majority by killing a liberalised abortion Bill already passed in the lower house of Parliament.

By a two-vote majority — 156 votes to 154— the senate voted not to discuss the Bill paragraph by paragraph. This automatically struck it off the agenda for this parliamentary session.

Under Senate rules, the Bill cannot be re-presented for at least six months. However, the draft law presented to the Senate, which was more liberal than the Bill previously approved by the Chambt r of Deputies, has been sent to the Chamber for discussion in the meantime.

Should the Chamber approve the Senate's liberalised draft, which makes abortion available virtually on demand even for 16-year-olds, it is considered likely hat this same draft will be presented to the Senate in Noven ber or December.

The defeat of the Bill was believed to have been caused by senators of the smaller lay parties bolting ranks, even though they approved of abortion, to force a rupture of the present Christian Democrat and Communist working agreement, and precipitate the fall of the Andreotti Government.

The vote was a solid victory for the Christian Democrats (Catholic party), which fought the liberalised abortion measure with the support of only the hated neo-Fascist parties.

Italy now must face the prospect of a convulsive referendum, called by the vocal Radical Party to abrogate all anti-abortion laws. In 1976, the Radicals collected the required

number of signatures on apetition to hold a referendum on abortion. The referendum, however, was postponed automatically for two years when President Giovanni Leone called for national elections last spring. It will have to be held by mid-June, 1978, if Parliament does not change the current tough, anti-abortion legislation before then.

-The Christian Democrats have already begun talks with other parties to try to win support for new abortion legislation with less drastic proposals than those in the Bill killed by the Senate.

More than 30,000 women and girls marched through the streets of Rome last Friday protesting against the Senate vote. Other demonstrations were held throughout the country.

I he Vatican made no official statement but ranking prelates were obviously happy at the outcome. Raimondo Manzini, director of the Vatican's newspaper, Osservatore Romano, said: "The Senate vote confirms the perplexity aroused (in political circles) over the final outcome of the technical formulation of a law which, in veiled language, would have legitimised abortion at will and provided state medical and financial help in evident contrast to the constitution Which dictates a care for human life.

"The Christian Democratic motivation (in rejecting abortion) is irrefutable: appropriate measures should be drawn up only to assure assistance and advice to mothers to dissuade them from the crime of suppression of a conceived being. It is to be hoped that the political forces in the abortion field will know how to view this and judge with realism the Senate's vote."

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