Will Italy’s Government Stall a Pro-life Law?

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Will Italy’s Government Stall a Pro-life Law?
Will Italy’s Government Stall a Pro-life Law?

In Italy, the pro-life cause faces overwhelming odds because of its anti-life abortion law, known as Law 194.

The law, promulgated on May 22, 1978, was proposed by the left, including the Communist Party, and enacted with the support of the Christian Democratic Party and the Italian Bishops Conference. It also had the signatures of Catholic President Giovanni Leone, Catholic Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, and three Catholic ministers.

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Since Law 194’s approval, all attempts by the pro-life movement to overturn it have encountered stiff opposition not only from left-wing parties but from the Catholic hierarchy.

For example, the pro-life and pro-family movements obtained a significant victory by striking down Law 40/2004 in 2005, which would have authorized in vitro fertilization.

At a press conference, a reporter asked Cardinal Camillo Ruini, then president of the Bishops Conference, the following question: “Your Eminence, you just had a great victory against Law 40. Will the next step be to challenge Law 194?” “Nobody touches 194!” he answered, a sentiment subsequently echoed by his successor as president, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, who declared, “Nobody wants to change 194.”1 In sum, the official position of the Bishops Conference is that 194 is a good law but is not applied correctly. It should be noted that more than 6 million babies have been slaughtered on the altar of this “good law.”

The same support for the pro-abortion law holds true for conservative political forces. Recently, Antonio Tijani, leader of the center-right Forza Italia Party, declared, “194 will not be changed.” Fabio Rampelli, vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies and spokesman for the Fratelli d’Italia party, affirmed, “The government does not want to change 194.”2

The Catholic and conservative defense of 194 has led the pro-life movement to wage side skirmishes, forgoing a major battle to overturn abortion. Thus, the Rome March for Life has encountered manifold predicaments and has failed to match the impact of the Washington March for Life.

A significant victory was recently attained when the government introduced, within a broader bill known as PNRR Quater, the Fourth National Plan of Recovery and Resilience, an article that would require pro-life counselors to be present at facilities that perform abortions. Presented by Deputy Lorenzo Malagola (Fratelli d’Italia), the article embedded in the plan’s chapter on financing of public health was approved by Parliament with an ample majority. Still, it remains to be seen if it will be adequately enforced in practice.

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Another recent victory for the pro-life movement was the presentation of a Heartbeat Bill, a People’s Initiative Law Proposal submitted by petition.

On May 16, 2023, a coalition of pro-life groups, including Tradition, Family and Property, submitted the proposal to the Supreme Court, which accepted it. The following November, the coalition submitted 106,000 signatures, more than twice the number constitutionally required.3 The heartbeat bill would add a paragraph to Law 194 that states: “The doctor who carries out the examination preceding the voluntary interruption of pregnancy pursuant to this law is obliged to show, through instrumental tests, to the woman intending to have an abortion, the unborn child she is carrying in her womb and to have her listen to the heartbeat thereof.”

Thus, the doctor must legally show the woman the ultrasound image of her child.

One cannot overstate the impact of such a step. One of the most damaging lies the promoters of abortion tell is that the baby in the mother’s womb is nothing but a “mass of cells” that can be trivially disposed of. If, however, the mother sees her child, listens to his heartbeat and watches his movements, she will most probably realize that the “mass of cells” is, in reality, a human being deserving to live, her baby! Thus, it does not strike down the 194 Law but curtails its pernicious effects.

The Supreme Court has accepted the heartbeat bill, which is supported by the necessary number of signatures. The Chamber of Deputies has announced that it will be discussed in Parliament in the Justice and Social Affairs Committees.4

The proposal is already encountering opposition. The first attack came from the government. During a television interview, Minister for the Family Eugenia Rocella declared, “Making the heartbeat of the unborn child be heard by a woman who is going to have an abortion is certainly not a way to help difficult maternities. It’s something that shouldn’t be done.”5 A member of Meloni’s cabinet, nominated from a center-right list, Rocella was a member of the Radical Party from 1979 to 1993, the very party that proposed legalizing abortion. Indeed, she actively participated in the Women’s Liberation Movement campaign that led to the 194 Law. She later converted to a Catholic pro-life and pro-family stance but remains opposed to any resolute action to end abortion to this day. Many prolifers dislike her.

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It is unclear what weight, if any, the Meloni government would put behind enforcing a pro-life law. One thing is certain. It would find pro-lifers ready for battle.

This article first appeared in the Polish newspaper Nasz Dziennik.

Photo Credit: © Comugnero Silvana – stock.adobe.com


  1. https://lanuovabq.it/it/la-194-non-si-tocca-quei-cattolici-cosi-relativisti
  2. https://pagellapolitica.it/articoli/governo-modifica-legge-194-aborto-emendamento-pnrr
  3. https://www.uncuorechebatte.eu/2023/09/01/proposta-di-legge/
  4. https://www.provitaefamiglia.it/blog/la-proposta-di-legge-un-cuore-che-batte-verra-discussa-in-parlamento-ecco-i-dettagli
  5. https://lanuovabq.it/it/aosta-fake-sullaborto-ostacolato-sconcertante-roccella

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