The Italian city of Verona is set to establish a ‘National Day of Unborn Life’ in a bid to promote motherhood and to reverse the ‘serious emergency’ created by Italy’s falling birth rate.
The city’s mayor, Federico Sboarina, in a letter to the presidents of the Senate and the Chamber, proposed the establishment of the day to celebrate unborn life. A note from the Municipality of Verona explaining the purpose of the proposed day, set to be celebrated on the 25th of May, states that the aim is to “give a strong cultural signal and open a debate that involves the whole country”.
Significantly, the day proposed for the National Day of Unborn Life is the 25th of May, the same day Ireland removed equal protection for mother and unborn baby, legalising abortion in 2018’s abortion referendum.
The proposal comes as the country’s most recent statistics showed that the birth rate in Italy has hit a 160-year-low. Birth rates in the country fell for the 12th consecutive year in 2020, reaching their lowest level since 1861, according to new figures released in December 2021.
The statistics from statistics agency ISAT showed that in 2020, births in Italy were reduced by 15,192 on 2019 levels, while the average number of children per woman was at 1.17, coming in as one of the lowest ratios in the world. The ISAT figures, collected from a sample of 15 Italian cities, found that births in Italy in December 2020 – exactly nine months after the country went into Europe’s first lockdown – plunged by an astonishing 21.6 per cent.
Italy’s collapsing birth rate has rung demographic alarm bells, and is increasingly being seen as an emergency. According to forecasts, Italy’s falling birth rate will decrease the Italian population by almost 20 million people in 2050, going from 60 to 40 million. The consequences of the demographic crisis are likely to be wide-ranging, from the pension system to the health system, with negative effects likely to be felt for future generations.
Local online newspaper, VeronaSera, reports that if local authorities can intervene with ‘services and facilities’ in support of families, a cultural shift could come into force, resulting in more births.
“What is missing is ‘a radical cultural change towards the parental role and the wealth that children represent not only for the couple who brings them into the world, but also for society and the future of the county,” the local newspaper reports.
According to the newspaper, local authorities are being advised to provide ‘information on gestation to the care to be provided to the unborn child and the pregnant woman’; ‘the rights due to the pregnant woman including the health and assistance services present in the territory’; ‘labour legislation to protect the mother and father’; and supports which ‘ensure that a mother must never be forced to choose between family and work.’ In short, VeronaSera reports, the Municipality of Verona is calling for “a profound cultural change which can no longer wait.”
According to local media, the initiative was presented on Wednesday 2 February in the packed town hall by the Mayor of Verona, Italian politician and lawyer, Federico Sboarina. Six bills were proposed as part of the initiative, and those present included councillors for the Municipality of Verona, representatives of civil society, associations that are advocating for the establishment of the National Day, and the president of the Family Day association, Massimo Gandolfini.
Speaking at the meeting, Mayor Federico Sboarina told those gathered:
“Italy no longer has children. It is a national problem that we must face urgently and with the utmost unity, because the repercussions of the fall in the birth rate concern us immediately but above all in the future, with serious consequences for the new generations.”
He continued: “The Day of Unborn Life is the first concrete step towards a radical cultural change, to give parenthood and the family a central role in society. We mayors are the first to try to give families better services and aid, but strong interventions are needed to encourage the birth rate and guarantee the centrality of the role of women.
“Children are a wealth, first of all for parents who are lucky enough to be able to feel a love that knows no terms of comparison, but also for the whole of society. I am pleased that the issue is also being addressed in a transversal way in Parliament, a sign of a universally recognized problem.”
Councillor Ciro Maschino echoed the Mayor’s concerns about the province’s falling birth rate. He said the proposals were about providing a ‘better future to the nation and to generations to come’.
“It is a battle that we carry on in Parliament without ifs and buts,” he said.
“The social implications of falling birth rates are too serious not to be addressed immediately and with structural interventions. The Municipality of Verona is distinguishing itself for being the leader of a network at the forefront to achieve concrete goals. We all must work together to give a better future to the nation and to the generations to come.”
Another councillor said that value ‘must be given’ to motherhood.
“A society cannot be based on individualism but on us, on the family and on parenthood,” added Councillor Bressan. “Therefore, value must be given to motherhood to stop the demographic winter.
“We do not need fragmentary measures but continuous and integrated ones, such as the universal single allowance which is unique because it is aimed at simplification and which aims to support parenthood regardless of income”.
The president of the Family Day association Massimo Gandolfini told those in attendance that the current demographic winter will have ‘heavy repercussions’ if immediate action is not taken to reduce the demographic decline.
“The [updated] ISTAT data for 2020 records a further historical minimum for births since the unification of Italy. A negative trend since 2008 that, if we do not intervene immediately, will have heavy repercussions on future generations. Children are not a cost, much less a luxury for a few. Children are a treasure above all for women, who must be helped in the centrality of the role they play in society, and for the whole of society,” he said.