Roberto Formigoni, the centre-right governor of the Lombardy region, said that the offer was to fulfil his pledge in regional elections in March that no woman should have to have an abortion because of economic difficulties.
During the regional poll the ruling centre-right coalition, led by Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, made a pitch for the Catholic vote by supporting Vatican policies on issues such as abortion and birth control.
Mr Formigoni said that, despite cuts in the budget, $5 million had been set aside to allow women in economic difficulty to be given €250 a month for 18 months.
If a woman told doctors she wanted an abortion for economic reasons she would be referred to a new centre for helping life for evaluation.
Augusto Colombo, a gynaecologist in Milan, said that there had been an increase in demands for abortion, which was attributable to the economy. “Whoever has trouble making ends meet often decides not to have a child,” he said.
Cinzia Sasso, a feminist writer in Milan, said that the move was propaganda, and the sum set aside was risible because it would allow only just over 1,000 women to avoid abortions. “In any case it is not clear how these women are supposed to manage when the anti-abortion bonus runs out after 18 months.”
In the regional poll centre-right candidates also vowed to ban the RU486 abortion pill days after it was made available. The pill, which gives a chemically induced abortion in the first seven weeks of pregnancy, was attacked by leaders of the Northern League. Abortion in the first three months of pregnancy has been available on demand in Italy for health, economic or social reasons since 1978. In the second 90 days it is restricted to serious malformations or when the woman’s life is at risk. A proposal to repeal the law was rejected overwhelminglyin a 1981 referendum.
In April a 22-week-old boy was found breathing a day after being aborted in the town of Rossano, after scans showed a cleft lip and palate. He died a day later.
Italian police have launched an investigation to establish whether the death amounted to infanticide.