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>>>ANSA/Protesters force family minister to abandon speech

>>>ANSA/Protesters force family minister to abandon speech

Mattarella and Meloni blast shouting down of Rocella

ROME, 09 May 2024, 19:00

ANSA English Desk



President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Giorgia Meloni expressed solidarity on Thursday for Family and Equal Opportunities Minister Eugenia Roccella after mostly female high-school pro-choice protesters forced her to abandon a speech she was about to give at a conference in Rome on reversing Italy's declining birth rate.
    When Roccella took the floor, members of the audience raised letters to form the word: "I decide". The Italian government recently passed a measure to allow pro-life activists access to abortion clinics.
    After the protest erupted, organizers of the States General of Natality conference allowed a representative of the protesters to speak.
    But when Roccella tried to continue her speech, she was shouted down and so she decided to stop.
    The collective of high-school students call themselves Arachne, a "trans-feminist" movement campaigning "against a patriarchal government" and its watchword of God, Motherland and Family.
    They say "women's bodies should not just be seen in a perspective of motherhood".
    The president's office said Mattarella called Roccella to voice his solidarity for her. "Wanting to silence those who think differently is at odds with the foundations of civilization and of our Constitution," the president said.
    Meloni expressed "full and unconditional solidarity" for Roccella.
    "The show staged this morning was shameful," the premier said.
    "Once again a minister was prevented from intervening and expressing their ideas.
    "Those to blame are a group of protesters who fill their mouths with the words about the freedom, respect and self-determination of women, but then love censorship and prevent a woman from speaking because they don't agree with her ideas.
    "I hope that all the political parties will have the courage to express solidarity and condemn this, without ifs or buts. "It's time to say enough is enough".
    The minister expressed anger at the way she was treated afterwards and chided the centre-left opposition, suggesting she did not expect it to condemn what had happened.
    "I am certain that PD (Democratic Party) Secretary Elly Schlein, the entire left, the intellectuals...- will have unequivocal words of solidarity for me after the act of censorship that I was subjected to this morning," Roccella quipped in a Facebook post.
    "The 'great press'... will have unequivocal words of solidarity with me after the act of censorship that this morning prevented me from speaking at the States General organised by the Foundation for Natality to give my speech and also to respond to the protester-censors and to debate with them".
    Despite what Roccella said, several members of the opposition centre-left did condemn the protest.
    "The right to criticize should in no way prevent a person from speaking," said PD Senator Annamaria Furlan.
    "I want to express my solidarity with Minister Roccella for today's events in Rome. "I feel distant from her ideas, but it is only by debate that one that can affirm the strength of our positions".
    However, Angelo Bonelli, an MP for the Green-Left Alliance (AVS), refused to abide by Meloni's call for all Italy's political parties to condemn the shouting down of Roccella.
    "President Meloni, I will not condemn it," Bonelli said.
    "Protest is the basis of democracy.
    "After you have occupied every public media space with your rallies broadcast on networks, after you have allowed religious-fundamentalist organizations to enter counselling centres to sabotage Law 194 (legalising abortion), I am on the side of the women students who displayed signs saying 'We decide about our bodies'".
    Veteran feminist writer Lidia Ravera, best known for her 1976 bittersweet critique of the 60s counterculture Winged Pigs, told ANSA that "protesting against authority is a right, and politics should stay out of private lives".
    Speaking to ANSA before leaving the event, Roccella said the protests were not just targetting her and the government but the whole issue of trying to boost the birth rate.
    "I left to keep that conference panel discussion going," she said, adding that she had stayed on stage for two hours when she faced similar flak recently in Turin, but stressing that on the occasion "the protest was directed only at me.
    "'I did so out of respect for the others (taking part), thinking that the protesters would leave in my absence and that is what happened and the others were able to continue," she said.
    "The protest was not just against the government, but against the issue of (boosting) the birth rate, as shown by the booing the eight-month pregnant mother who was on stage with me was subjected to".
    Pro-life groups have hailed being allowed into abortion clinics to persuade women there are alternatives to abortion.
    Members of Premier Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy party have backed pro-lifers' calls for women wanting abortions to be made to listen to their foetus' heartbeats, so far unsuccessfully.


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