[JURIST] Thousands of women marched in Milan Saturday, demanding that Italy keep a 1978 law that legalized abortion [UN backgrounder, DOC] during the first three months of pregnancy. Police estimated that 50,000 people joined in the march to keep abortion legal, a topic that has not seen so much political action in Italy since a 1981 referendum supporting the 1978 law. Meanwhile, thousands rallied in Rome in support of legal recognition for unmarried couples, including same-sex couples. In July, Catholic Cardinal Camillo Ruini said that the church did not want to overturn the current law, although Regional Affairs Minister Enrico La Loggia said the country's conservative government could try to change it [JURIST report]. Both abortion and gay marriage have become important topics in Italys parliamentary election campaign, which will pit Romano Prodi [BBC profile], prime minister from 1996-1998, against conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC backgrounder] on April 9th. Berlusconi denounced the rallies; politicians in the center-left opposition are divided over rights for homosexual couples. AP has more.