2024 G7 Summit: Leaders tussle over abortion as Italy accused of attacking reproductive rights

Meloni's office denies abortion rights have been slashed from the draft final summit statement, saying negotiations are ongoing with Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the US.
(From L), President of the European Council Charles Michel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau French President Emmanuel Macron, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen attend a work session at the Borgo Egnazia resort for the G7 Summit hosted by Italy in Apulia region, on June 13, 2024 in Savelletri.
(From L), President of the European Council Charles Michel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau French President Emmanuel Macron, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen attend a work session at the Borgo Egnazia resort for the G7 Summit hosted by Italy in Apulia region, on June 13, 2024 in Savelletri.Photo | AFP

BARI: The US pushed back hard Thursday against a reported attempt by Italy to water down a G7 leaders' declaration on abortion by removing a reference to "safe and legal" terminations.

Diplomatic sources said host Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has been trying to row back on language in the G7 statement from Japan last year, much to the irritation of her fellow Group of Seven countries.

US President Joe Biden "felt very strongly that we needed to have at the very least the language that references what we did in Hiroshima on women's health and reproductive rights," an unnamed senior US administration official said Thursday.

"The communique will have, will reiterate the commitment made in Hiroshima," the official said.

Meloni's office denies abortion rights have been slashed from the draft final summit statement, saying negotiations are ongoing with Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the US.

On Wednesday, a source close to the negotiations told AFP that since 2021 there has "been a mention of 'safe access'" in the G7 leaders' statement, but "Meloni doesn't want it".

"She's the only one, she's isolated on the issue. But since it's the host country, the others have decided not to make it a casus belli," the source said, using the Latin term for an act that provokes a war.

"So it won't come back in the text", the source added.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told Sky TG24 Thursday that it was "premature" to comment as "the different delegations are (still) negotiating".

'Disgrace'

Last year's G7 leaders' statement, after a summit in Japan, expressed "strong concern" about the rollback of women’s rights.

It also committed to sexual and reproductive health rights for all, "including by addressing access to safe and legal abortion and post-abortion care."

This year's final document is not expected to be published until late Friday.

France and Canada are particularly frustrated, as they had been pushing to strengthen abortion rights, according to Italy's Domani newspaper.

The French parliament earlier this year voted to enshrine the right to abortion in the country's constitution, and President Emmanuel Macron has said it should be protected in the EU's rights charter.

Abortion is also a hot topic in the United States, where President Joe Biden has been railing against curbs on abortion implemented in most conservative states.

An Italian presidency source on Wednesday denied the mention of "safe access" had already been cut.

"No state has asked to eliminate the reference to issues relating to abortion from the draft conclusions of the G7 summit... at a stage in which the negotiations are still ongoing," a presidential source said.

Meloni, a self-described "Christian mother" who came to power in 2022, has been accused by rights activists of attempting to make it more difficult to terminate pregnancies in Italy.

Although abortion has been legal in the Catholic-majority country since 1978, accessing one is challenging due to the high percentage of gynaecologists who refuse to perform them on moral or religious grounds.

In April, the Italian parliament passed a measure by Meloni's hard-right government coalition allowing anti-abortion activists to enter consultation clinics, sparking outrage from opposition parties.

Francesco Lollobrigida, Italy's agriculture minister and Meloni's brother-in-law, questioned whether it was "opportune" for the G7 to have a statement supporting abortion rights, with Pope Francis in attendance.

Francis is the head of the Catholic Church, which firmly condemns abortion. He will be at the summit on Friday as Meloni's guest but is not part of the G7.

Elly Schlein, the leader of Italy's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), accused Meloni of undermining Italy on the international stage by casting doubt on a "fundamental right."

"We have no use for a female premier who does not defend the rights of all other women in this country," she said, slamming the G7 abortion row as "a national disgrace."

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