Italy's recently elected Prime Minister Romano Prodi issued a public reprimand Tuesday to three of his ministers who publicized their positions on the Vatican-sensitive issues of abortion and same-sex unions, reported Reuters.
"Ministers cannot express their opinions,” said Prodi, whose party is not united on abortion and civil same-sex unions. “They must speak about decisions, their consequences and their implementation.”
An editorial in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, had criticized comments by Italy's health minister, Livia Turco, in favor of the abortion pill. It called the RU-486 abortion pill, which is not available for general use in Italy, a weapon to carry out "carefree murder.”
Turco said she favored controlled trials of the abortion pill as a "safe and alternative method" to terminate a pregnancy.
On Monday, the newspaper also criticized a proposal by Family Minister Rosy Bindi to discuss legal recognition for civil same-sex unions.
"The haste in which new ministers are lining up to assert their intentions on particularly sensitive themes is disconcerting," the editorial said. "It's feminism we frankly did not feel the need for.”
Turco's statements are a major shift from the previous centre-right government, which halted experiments with the RU-486 and recommended the presence of pro-life activists in state-funded advisory clinics to discourage abortion, reported Reuters.
Official data show that the number of abortions in Italy has fallen over the past two decades, with 132,178 abortions in 2003 compared with 235,000 in 1982, reported Reuters.
Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, with women of childbearing age having on average just 1.3 children, down from 2.2 in 1975.