Italy's Emma Bonino, pro-abortion rights, speaks at church despite protests

Two opposing sides in Italy were brought together on Wednesday when Emma Bonino, a former Italian foreign minister who is pro-abortion rights, spoke at a Catholic church despite strong protests from pro-life supporters. 

Bonino spoke at the church of San Defendente in San Rocco di Cossato about Italy's immigration laws, National Catholic Register reported. At the event, sponsored by a local branch of Caritas Italiana, Bonino pushed for overturning the 2002 legislation that tightened the country's immigration. 

Pro-life Catholic churchgoers were reportedly shut out of the event. A group of protesters gathered outside of the church, where they prayed, according to the National Catholic Register. Some activists who attended Bonino's speech were also shot down when they asked questions. 

Bonino, who has been previously praised by Pope Francis for her refugee worked, argued during her speech that Italy had "no choice" but to regularize illegal immigrants flooding in from Africa and the Middle East. She added "unless we want to drown them all in the Mediterranean." 

Bonino also said she came to speak at the church because she comes from "a practicing Catholic family, but one that taught [her] to respect the opinion of others." 

Bonino was appointed Italy's foreign minister in 2013 and vehemently fought to achieve women's rights in Italy. 

"It's always the same, everywhere in the world," Bonino told Newsweek in 2016. "Gender issues, empowerment, equality -- they are all a process. They can go backward for a while and then they can move forward."