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Italy to Review Abortion Law Ahead of General Election


The 1978 law that legalized abortion in Italy will be re-examined. The decision by the lower house speaker sparked a debate in the country. The center-left opposition said the move is aimed at getting Catholic votes ahead of next year's general election and could be a first step towards banning abortion.

Italy's lower house speaker, Pierferdinando Casini, gave the go-ahead to create a commission to examine the country's 1978 abortion law, which allows termination of pregnancy up to the end of the third month.

In a letter, he said that his decision came in response to demands by his party, the center-right Union of Christian Democrats to examine how the country's abortion law is applied. Mr. Casini said the examination should be completed by the end of January next year.

The decision sparked a debate in Italy on the reasons that led Mr. Casini to allow a re-examination of the law. But the lower house speaker defended his decision.

He says the idea of allowing or not the examination and the commission can be criticized but it was an institutional duty and I would like everyone to look at the evidence, forgetting about the upcoming election. There were 68 requests for it and all were approved.

In his letter, Mr. Casini said the study is to focus on whether the law is being applied at state-funded family centers. The country's health minister, Francesco Storace, has been among those who have called for a thorough investigation to ensure centers are closely following the abortion code.

The abortion law in Italy says state-funded family centers must help women overcome the reasons that have led them to seek a termination of their pregnancy.

The center-left opposition condemned Mr. Casini's move as unjustified and nothing but an effort to gain Catholic votes at next year's general election. Some fear that this is a first step to getting the abortion law overturned.

Although abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978, the Vatican has always spoken strongly against it. This past Sunday, Pope Benedict again told the faithful that human life must be respected from conception to natural death.

Although abortions have dropped significantly since the law came into effect, the issue is of particular importance because Italy has a very low birth rate and one of the lowest fertility rates in the world.

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