Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told attendees at the anti-abortion conference he won't take away abortion rights, but that Italians need to start making more babies.
Pro-abortion activists were out en force in the streets of Verona, Italy to protest an anti-abortion conference taking place there and attended by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
Salvini's coalition partner Luigi Di Maio described anti-abortion rhetoric as "medieval."
The World Congress of Families (WCF), a three day anti-abortion summit hosted by the U.S.-based, Christian right group International Organization for the Family (IOF), is taking place in Verona this year to the ire of abortion and women’s rights activists.
Protesters, who numbered between 20,000 and 100,000 people, came out to demonstrate against the congress that “seeks to unite and equip leaders, organizations, and families to affirm, celebrate, and defend the natural family as the only fundamental and sustainable unit of society,” according to the group’s website.
“The only positive thing to come out of this event is that all these groups have come together and Italy is uniting,” said Luisa Rizzitelli, a spokesperson for Rebel Network, a women’s equality group.
“This is a battle to protect the rights and freedom for all, not just one group. We’re all under threat. This congress is not about religion but political power, and we don’t accept this dangerous regression,” Rizzitelli added to The Guardian.
"In Italy there is currently a very serious attack against all the rights and freedoms that have been conquered by women," demonstrator Maddalena Saccone said to DW.
"There is talk of taking back the freedom of abortion, divorce and family law. These are struggles that were thought to have already been won."
Salvini, who leads the far-right North League party, an IOF supporter, gave a Saturday night speech during which he said abortion was here to stay in Italy.
The nationalist Salvini said he “supports ... the right to be a mother, a father and a grandparent,” but added he would not work to change Italy’s abortion law. Instead he said he wants to see the government better help women who are seeking an abortion because of financial reasons, according to DW.
The right-wing politician, who has several times denied refugees from Libya the ability to enter Italy said to the IOF crowd: “Italians need to start bringing children into the world. A country that doesn’t make babies is a country that dies.”
Other conference speakers include the president of Moldova, Igor Dodon, several Hungarian government officials from the current right-wing government and Dmitri Smirnov, a senior figure in the Russian Orthodox Church, among other Christian religious figures.
Salvini's coalition partner Luigi Di Maio, the leader of another right-wing party, Five Star Movement, spoke out against the views held by the World Congress of Families.
"The vision defended by this Congress in Verona is a vision of the world that belongs for the most part to the Middle Ages, which considers women as submissive," he said.