BY Edward Pentin
“No woman in Lombardy will have to have an abortion because of economic difficulties.” The pledge of Roberto Formigoni, the centre-Right governor of the Lombardy region in northern Italy, who is to offer women considering an abortion €4,500 ($5,500) to keep their baby. Pregnant women in the region who can prove they are in economic difficulty will be given €250 ($300) a month for 18 months. Formigoni promised to introduce the incentive when he ran for office in regional elections in March. The program will cost the local authority €5 million ($6.1 million) which will be placed in a special fund. It’s estimated that it will help more than a thousand mothers not to give up their child. “We want to help the family, motherhood and the birth rate, removing any obstacles and beginning with those of an economic nature which make it harder to make a choice for life,” said Formigoni. The region’s ‘Councillor for the Family’, Julius Boscagli, said the initiative was particularly significant as “it comes when, more than at any other time, economic and social instability has repercussions on the choice of many women to delay or interrupt a pregnancy.” Guidelines have been introduced to ensure the initiative is properly followed, according to the Italian daily Il Giornale. When a woman asks to terminate her pregnancy for economic reasons, hospital staffers will immediately mobilize to implement the anti-abortion plan. Doctors and psychologists, together with social services, are to contact the woman to explain to her the availability of aid. This aid, the paper reports, can come not only from the local authorities but also third parties. If the mother agrees, counsellors will draw up a “personal plan”, or a kind of maternity contract, which, if the mother signs, will describe the various incentives on offer, both before and after childbirth. The grant will be used to purchase a crib, diapers, and everything needed in the first months of the life of the child. Just one condition is required of the mother: that she effectively agrees to participate in the plan. Critics questioned how women would cope once the anti-abortion “bonus” ran out after a year and a half, but the Italian Bishops’ Conference hailed the new policy, saying: “Anything that respects life is to be applauded.” John Smeaton of the UK Society for the Protection of Unborn Children also welcomed the move. “It is heartening to see a politician breaking from the popular trend in this crucial area of maternal care,” he wrote on his blog. “For the most part, pregnant women are left to fend for themselves, while governments promote, encourage and fund abortions.” Formigoni’s welcome plan is certainly imaginative – it’ll be interesting to see how workable and effective it is.