Italy’s Meloni plays down G7 abortion row

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni says a suspected row over the absence of the word “abortion” in a G7 statement has been blown out of proportion.

She issued the response after a commitment made last year by G7 nations to address access to “safe and legal abortion” was left out of the final statement at this year’s summit in Italy.

Both France and the US are reported to have been part of a diplomatic tug of war with Italy about whether to mention abortion in the final statement.

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier said he was “sorry” about the omission and said France had voted to enshrine the right to an abortion in the country’s constitution, but the Italians did not have the “same sensibilities”.

But Ms Meloni told a press conference on Saturday that she thought the controversy was “totally contrived” and that there had been nothing to argue about at the summit.

Last year’s statement, which followed a summit held in the Japanese city of Hiroshima, said: “We reaffirm our full commitment to achieving comprehensive SRHR [Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights] for all, including by addressing access to safe and legal abortion and post abortion care.”

This year’s statement, by comparison, read: “We reiterate our commitments in the Hiroshima leaders’ communique to universal access to adequate, affordable, and quality health services for women, including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.”

Ms Meloni said the reason for the omission of references to abortion in the newer text was completely normal and an attempt to stop the document becoming too repetitive.

“It usually happens that in the final documents of these sessions, things that are already taken for granted are not repeated,” she said.

“I sincerely believe that the controversy [around abortion] was totally contrived, and in fact it is a controversy that did not exist in the summit, that did not exist in our discussions, precisely because there was nothing to argue about.”

The G7 is a group of the world’s seven wealthiest countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US – which hold meetings, form agreements and publish joint statements on global events.

Representatives of other countries including Turkey, India and Ukraine also attended the summit, which Italy has been hosting in the southern region of Puglia.

American officials told the New York Times that US President Joe Biden had pushed back after being told Ms Meloni did not want the words “abortion” and “reproductive rights” to be included in the statement.

Speaking to the Italian news agency Ansa, France’s President Macron said he was “sorry” that references to abortion had not been included.

“France has a vision of equality between women and men, but it’s not a vision shared by all the political spectrum,” Mr Macron said.

Ms Meloni said she thought it was “profoundly wrong” for Mr Macron to, as she put it, use the G7 summit to campaign for the upcoming French election.

Mr Macron called a snap election a week ago, after his Renew party suffered a stinging defeat by France’s far-right National Rally in the recent European elections.

Ms Meloni, meanwhile, cemented her grip on politics – increasing the vote gained by her party in the 2022 general election.

It is not only the issue of abortion that France and Italy are reported to have fallen out over. Diplomatic sources told the AFP news agency that Rome was annoyed by Paris announcing a new $50 billion loan for Ukraine before it was fully confirmed.

As Mr Macron arrived at a formal dinner on Thursday night, Ms Meloni was seen shooting him a steely glare – an apparent tension that was picked up by many on social media.

Ms Meloni’s brother-in-law and the current agriculture minister, Francesco Lollobrigida, questioned whether it was appropriate to mention abortion in the final statement at a G7 where the Pope was present.

“If they [the G7 countries] chose not to include it there must be a reason and a more than acceptable reason,” he said.

Ms Meloni, who leads the far-right Brothers of Italy (FdI), has never made a secret of her opposition to abortion. Before being appointed prime minister in 2022, she vowed to “give the right to make a different decision to women who think abortion is the only solution”.

While it is technically legal in Italy, access to abortion remains patchy due to the high number of medical personnel who identify as “conscientious objectors” and can therefore refuse to perform them.

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