Four ethical challenges for prime minister Meloni


Southern Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Italy's new Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni holds the cabinet minister bell handed to her by Italy's outgoing prime minister during a handover ceremony at Palazzo Chigi in Rome on October 23th. Photo AFP, Andreas Solaro

With demographic decline as one of the key problems in Italy, the newly installed Meloni administration has its work cut out for them. The new Prime Minister of Italy sees the traditional family as the key instrument against the declining birth rate.

Friday was a historic day in Italy. That was said by the the former Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi. "For the first time we'll have a woman at the helm in Italy", he said according to the BBC.

That woman is the 45-year-old Giorgia Meloni. A former journalist and the party leader of the conservative Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy). On Friday, she became the 60th prime minister of Italy. After arriving at the presidential palace in a white Fiat 500, she met with President Mattarella. Over an hour later, she presented her cabinet, which is “ready to give Italy a government that confronts the challenges of our time with competence." On Saturday morning, the cabinet was installed.

Meloni’s cabinet, by many media listed as the “most right-wing administration since World War II”, includes Matteo Salvini's far-right League party and the centre-right Forza Italia of Silvio Berlusconi. The latter recently clashed with Meloni. The 86-year-old former prime minister wrote on a note in the Senate what he thought of Meloni: stubborn, opinionated, arrogant and insulting. Meloni responded furiously: "Berlusconi forgot one thing on his list: not blackmailable."

So, although the coalition does not seem as united as it was during the presentation, Meloni has ambitious plans. During the campaign, the Roman Catholic presented herself as a "Christian mother" who will restore national pride.

Who will preside over issues related to family and health?

Italy has two departments for that: the Ministry of Health and the Minister for Family, Natality and Equal Opportunities. Meloni changed the name of the latter ministry by adding 'Natality' to it. One of the main objectives of the new Meloni government is to combat the demographic decline and to stimulate the national birth rate, which has been going down for decades.

Italian Minister for Family, Natality and Equal Opportunities Eugenia Roccella arrives for the first Council of Ministers at Chigi Palace in Rome. Photo EPA, Ettore Ferrari

Minister Eugenia Roccella thus has to work on getting more babies in Italy. Earlier, she worked at Family Day, a Catholic pro-life action group that, among other things, vehemently protested against the introduction of same-sex registered partnership in 2016. Same-sex marriage does not exist in Italy, and will surely not be introduced by this Meloni government.

Rocclla’s colleague at the Ministry of Health is the 56-year-old Orazio Schillaci, a professor of nuclear medicine. According to Corriere della Sera, Mr Schillaci is highly appreciated by the academic community. He was a member of the scientific committee of the Higher Institute of Health which supported the ministry in the key decisions taken during the Covid-19 pandemic. Corriere della Sera describes the man as a "purely technical figure", since he has never taken on political positions. "Discreet, very great worker, very precise and punctual, able to achieve results in a totally centred way: completely away from the hype."

What are Meloni’s plans on ethical issues?


Italy is one of the main entry points into Europe and since the start of the year 70,000 migrants have arrived on boats on the country's shores. In her campaign, Meloni vowed to crack down on immigration and tighten Italy's borders. Among promised measures are accelerated repatriations and more stringent asylum rules. Meloni has also called for a naval blockade of North Africa to prevent migrants from putting to sea and for renewed curbs on charity rescue ships. This reports Reuters.

Migrants and aid organisations alike fear the incoming government. African migrant Mustapha Jarjou says to the BBC that he is worried "it's going to create a lot of negative impact on the lives of migrants like me."


During her campaign, Meloni promised to leave the current Abortion law untouched. Women can now terminate a pregnancy within the first 90 days (13 weeks). Although criminalisation seems unlikely, abortion activists fear that Meloni will make it harder to get an abortion. There are, for example, entire regions in Italy where it is difficult to get an abortion since all gynaecologists are conscientious objectors. As CNE reported earlier, this makes access to abortion more difficult.

A woman holds a placard reading in Spanish "not a single one less" during a gathering marking the annual International Safe Abortion Day, on September 28, 2022 in downtown Rome. Photo AFP, Alberto Pizzoli

Minister Eugenia Roccella is also not a fan of abortion. Earlier, she described the practice as the “dark side of motherhood”. Earlier in life, Roccella was a feminist, writes Italian daily La Repubblica. However, now, she puts motherhood in the centre of the female identity.


Meloni’s party program did not mention anything about end-of-life related subjects, reports the Christian Italian daily Avvenire. However, when in February the Italian Parliament debated a law on medically assisted death, Meloni strongly opposed opening up the possibility. “For Brothers of Italy, the sacredness of life must be defended as an absolute value in every moment, from its conception to its natural end”, deputy Lucia Albano said.

In Italy, euthanasia and assisted suicide are officially forbidden. However, a 2019 decision by the country’s Constitutional Court found that assisted suicide was permissible when patients could make decisions and in overwhelming pain, legalising it in practice. As CNE reported earlier, this makes it a theme which is picked up by activists.


Surrogacy is forbidden in Italy. And given Roccella's fierce criticism of it, it will remain so for some time. Meloni, meanwhile, has suggested to extend the ban by criminalising gay couples who seek surrogate mothers abroad, for instance from Ukraine. As CNE reported earlier, the international surrogacy markets make domestic regulations difficult.


LGBT activists fear that their rights will not be strengthened under Meloni. When an activist walked on stage at a Meloni rally, Meloni replied: “You want a lot of things (...); everyone wants things; you already have civil unions.” This was report by The Guardian. Meloni has repeatedly stated that in her view, children should only be raised by a father and a mother. In a speech in Spain, earlier this year, Meloni made her views clear: “Yes to the natural family, no to the LGBT lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender ideology, yes to the culture of life, no to that of death.”



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