The law in Italy has made it difficult for women to have freedom of choice in the matter of abortion, some resorting to dangerous methods, writes Francesco Bertolucci.
IN ITALY, almost 70% of the total number of gynaecologists deny the possibility of performing abortions because of their religious beliefs. This is an option guaranteed to doctors by Law 194 of 1978, which regulated access to abortion and decriminalised it. Until that year, anyone who procured or caused an abortion was liable to penalties ranging from six months to 12 years' imprisonment.
The basic law is very good and it also specifies that the regions must ensure that abortion is possible. But if a woman comes to the hospital and there are no doctors that are non-objectors, it becomes difficult.
According to the ministry, today the number of non-objectors is decreasing but, as abortions are decreasing, everything is fine. Which should be read backwards: if there are fewer non-objectors, the number of abortions in the open decreases. We know of many women who, unable to find places in hospitals, try ‘home-made’ solutions or, if they have money, go to private clinics.
The problem is that we know the number of legal abortions but not the number of requests or places available in hospitals. A study is missing. Practically speaking, if 150 people show up and 20 abortions are performed, only the performed abortions will be recorded. We lose the others. To understand how many abortions there are is impossible.
The lack of a study is also confirmed by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, which explains that this has not been reported as a problem by the various regional health centres. In total, only 30% of gynaecologists perform abortions in these centres.
Everyday life made difficult
Abortions are performed in only 65% of Italian gynaecology and obstetrics departments. Among the areas with the least coverage is Molise, a region of 300,000 inhabitants, where there is only one gynaecologist who performs abortions. Among other things, he is close to retirement.
In recent years, an average of 75,000 abortions has been carried out in Italy, compared to 230,000 in the first years of the law's implementation. This is also due to the possibility of taking the abortion pill RU486. In some regions, it is difficult to find it. In the Marche, a region of 1.5 million inhabitants covering 9,400 square kilometres, it is used in only six cases out of a hundred. Feminist associations have made it known that in the region the pill is administered, it is available in only three hospitals while in the others it is not. Just as it is not given in the consultancies.
The political force that leads the Marche region, Fratelli d´Italia, is fighting against abortion.
In January, Carlo Ciccioli, the group leader, said in the Regional Council:
“Our battle is for natality, not for the right of abortion. There are almost no children being born and we don't want to be replaced by other ethnic groups.”
In Umbria, the region with the highest rate of victims of feminicide in relation to the female population, the situation is no better. Here, too, the associations have underlined problems in this regard — the pill in Umbria could only be found in the most difficult to reach hospitals, while it was not available in hospitals in large cities. It is as if it was made on purpose.
This is not surprising, given that in June 2020, the Regional Council led by the Lega Party had abolished the possibility of pharmacological abortion in day hospitals. A possibility that is only guaranteed in four regions: Lombardy, Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Lazio.
The situation will worsen, also because for some time now politics has been becoming more pressing. Just remember the bill deposited in 2018 by Senator Maurizio Gasparri [Forza Italia, former Minister of the Berlusconi Government] which called for changing Article 1 of the Civil Code. Their aim was to change the sentencing ‘a person becomes a person when born’ to ‘a person becomes a person when conceived’.
Like this, abortion would automatically be outlawed. Or the municipalities that declare themselves pro-life, pay money to the anti-abortion associations and take money away from public counselling centres. In Italy, it's as if a part of the country is allergic to progress. And it is against women.
Francesco Bertolucci is a freelance Italian journalist.
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