Draft G7 statement makes no mention of abortion, sparks LGBTQ criticism

Italy hosts G7 summit in Puglia

BORGO EGNAZIA, Italy (Reuters) -Group of Seven leaders made no direct reference to abortion in their final communique on Friday, according to a draft seen by Reuters, with Italy refusing to bow to French pressure to include the word.

The draft also sparked accusations of watering down support for LGBTQ rights compared with the statement issued at the leaders' previous meeting.

The abortion issue caused a diplomatic spat between Rome and Paris, with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni accusing French President Emmanuel Macron of seeking to score political points ahead of a national election in France.

A draft G7 statement reviewed by Reuters upheld commitments "to universal access to adequate, affordable, and quality health services for women", that the leaders made at their summit in Hiroshima in Japan last year.

However, it removed specific reference in the 2023 communique on the importance of "access to safe and legal abortion and post-abortion care".

Italy, which holds the G7's rotating presidency this year, said there was no need to repeat the language because they had specifically reiterated their Hiroshima pledge.

Critics also said the draft omitted part of the Hiroshima wording supporting diversity, including specifically for sexual orientations and gender identities, which they believed amounted to a less strict commitment to safeguarding LGBTQ rights.

The Italian government rebuffed such criticism in a statement and said references to rights of LGBTQ people had not been removed.

"We express our strong concern about the rollback of the rights of women, girls, and LGBTQIA+ people around the world in particular in time of crisis and we strongly condemn all violations and abuses of their human rights and fundamental freedoms," the draft 2024 statement said.

But it omitted a further section from the previous statement referring to "supporting diversity, including of sexual orientations and gender identities".

Arch-conservative Meloni is anti-abortion and repeatedly vowed to combat what she calls an LGBTQ lobby and gender ideology. The Italian parliament is currently debating a bill to criminalise surrogacy done abroad.

Diplomats said France and Canada had sort to strengthen the language on abortion rights, but had failed to get it past the Italians.

"You don't have the same sensibilities in your country," Macron told an Italian reporter on Thursday evening. "France has a vision of equality between women and men, but it’s not a vision shared by all the political spectrum."

However, Meloni told reporters: "I think it is profoundly wrong, in difficult times like these, to campaign (for an election) using a precious forum like the G7."

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Crispian Balmer and Alex Richardson)