Italy’s New Abortion Law Is a Lesson in How Meloni Governs

At a family counseling center in Verbania, a leafy lakefront town in northern Italy, employees not only explain to women the rules for getting abortions, they have also distributed leaflets supplied by a local anti-abortion group.

“Are you pregnant?” reads the flier from the “Center for Assistance to Life” in the town. If you think the only option is abortion, it tells women considering the procedure, “Contact us! We can talk and together it will be different.”

Soon, there may be more than just fliers in this and similar centers. A measure introduced by the right-wing party of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and passed by the Parliament on Tuesday potentially emboldens anti-abortion groups to advocate inside family counseling centers, reminds her conservative supporters that she is one of them, and has driven the liberal opposition crazy — all without actually changing much.

The measure is essentially a restatement of a part of Italy’s 1978 abortion law, which emphasized prevention even as it legalized abortion. To that end, the law allowed the family counseling centers to make use of volunteer associations “protecting motherhood” to help women avoid terminating their pregnancies because of economic, social or family hardships.

But the new legislation — and the changes it could inspire — again show Ms. Meloni’s mastery of political messaging. The first Italian prime minister with roots in parties born from the ashes of Fascism, she has assured a once skeptical foreign-policy establishment that she is a trustworthy, more-or-less mainstream partner willing to play nice in Brussels and act as a solid U.S. ally against Russian aggression.

But political analysts say that the domestic agenda she has pursued since coming to power 18 months ago still very much fits her longstanding beliefs — and pleases her traditional base — without yet making dramatic changes that could set back her international image.

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