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Meloni and Macron clash on abortion language at G7 summit

<i>Luca Bruno/AP via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni welcomes President Joe Biden to the G7 summit
Luca Bruno/AP via CNN Newsource
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni welcomes President Joe Biden to the G7 summit

By Christian Edwards, Niamh Kennedy, Barbie Latza Nadeau and Nic Robertson, CNN

(CNN) — The crowning document from a meeting of G7 leaders in Italy has been released with a veiled reference to abortion after French President Emmanuel Macron clashed with Italy’s prime minister over the specific language to include on abortion rights.

The Group of Seven’s summit declaration on Friday referred to “comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all” but did not include the word “abortion” itself – a contrast to the group’s previous communique, released after the 2023 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, which called explicitly for “access to safe and legal abortion and post abortion care.”

American officials said US President Joe Biden pushed to keep in language about reproductive rights after the summit host, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, sought to strip some language from the document. Friday’s communique appeared to be a diplomatic solution, with the statement endorsing the Hiroshima text without reproducing it.

The document emphasizes the seven nations’ “commitments in the Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué to universal access to adequate, affordable, and quality health services for women, including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all,” the communique reads.

The annual gathering’s communique sets out the bloc’s values and agenda for the year ahead. Several previous summits’ communiques have also stopped short of using the word “abortion,” calling instead for access to sexual and reproductive health services.

‘I regret it, but I respect it’

Negotiations over this year’s language caused a public clash on the sidelines of the summit between Meloni and Macron. Asked by an Italian journalist on Thursday how he felt about a G7 statement “without the word abortion,” Macron said he regretted Rome’s position.

“France shares this vision of equality between men and women. It is not a vision that is shared by all the political spectrum. I regret it but I respect it because it was the sovereign choice of your people,” he said.

France intends to “defend with force” the right to abortion, he added.

Meloni defended her conservative government’s position on Thursday, and accused Macron of playing politics, days after he called snap parliamentary elections in France for later this month.

“There is no reason to argue about issues on which we have already agreed for some time. I believe it is profoundly wrong, in difficult times like these, to campaign using a precious forum like the G7,” Meloni told reporters Thursday.

The bloc has used the past two summits primarily to stress its support for Ukraine as the country tries to repel Russia’s invasion and show it remains undivided in the face of resurgent global threats.

But, coming swiftly after European parliamentary elections which saw far-right parties make gains in several countries – and ahead of the United States presidential election in November – national political issues have intruded on this summit more than in previous years.

Biden, who has made protecting abortion rights a centerpiece of his reelection bid, had pushed to ensure that an endorsement of the Hiroshima statement would be in the communique, according to US officials on Thursday.

“The president felt very strongly that we need to have at the very least the language that references what we did in Hiroshima on women’s health and reproductive rights,” a senior US administration official said.

The issue of abortion has become particularly febrile in the US since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, a decision made possible by a solid six-member conservative majority, including three judges nominated by former President Donald Trump.

In Italy, however, where Meloni’s conservative platform helped propel her party to power in 2022, she has largely toed the G7’s line on geopolitical issues – while pushing hard-right policies domestically. She has previously called abortion a “tragedy,” surrogacy “inhuman” and has removed lesbian mothers’ names from their children’s birth certificates.

Francesco Lollobrigida, Meloni’s brother-in-law, informal spokesman and Italy’s agriculture minister, suggested the reason Meloni feels so strongly about this issue was because the Pope has been present at the summit.

The clash between Meloni and Macron comes after France in March became the world’s first country to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution, the culmination of an effort which began in direct response to the US Supreme Court’s decision to roll back abortion rights in America.

“France integrated this right of women to an abortion, the freedom to have control over one’s body within this institution. The same sensibility is not shared in your country today,” Macron said at the summit.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Samantha Waldenberg contributed reporting.

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