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The Law Allowing Pro-Life Groups Access to Italy’s Public Abortion Clinics

  • April 2024

On 23 April 2024, the Italian Parliament approved the law on “urgent provisions for the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (also known as PNRR)”. This law contains an amendment that has nothing to do with the purpose of the law. The amendment has been supported by the governing party called Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy). This amendment envisages that the Italian regions, in organising the consultation services for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy (VIP), may “make use, without new or greater burdens on the public finance, of the involvement of third-sector associations that have qualified experience in maternity support (avvalersi, senza nuovi o maggiori oneri a carico della finanza pubblica, anche del coinvolgimento di soggetti del terzo settore che abbiano una qualificata esperienza nel sostegno alla maternità)”. In fact, the amendment does not affect Italy’s current socio-healthcare reality: in some parts of the peninsula, these associations are already present in public centres for consultation services through which the medical certificate is issued to perform VIP. The presence of these associations is justified in the name of Article 2 of the law 194/1978 on legal abortion, according to which consultation services can avail themselves of the “voluntary collaboration of social and voluntary associations, which can also help mothers with difficulties after the birth of their child (collaborazione volontaria di idonee formazioni sociali di base e di associazioni del volontariato, che possono anche aiutare la maternità difficile dopo la nascita)”. Therefore, the amendment does not affect the concrete consequences of today’s legislation. This amendment only serves to raise a smokescreen on the Italian politics, which is incapable of responding to people’s real needs. Proof of this is the law 194/1978 in itself, as demonstrated by the Minister of Health’s report on “provision for the social protection of maternity and the voluntary interruption of pregnancy”. This report states that public hospitals with an obstetrics department and VIP service are only 60 per cent nationwide. The report also affirms that the number of gynaecologists who are conscientious objectors amounts to around 75 per cent, with much higher percentages in southern Italian regions: the number of conscientious objectors reaches there 90 per cent, and there are hospitals in which 100 per cent of gynaecologists are conscientious objectors. The situation is such that in many parts of Italy non-objecting gynaecologists of retirement age are invited to continue working in public hospitals. In other parts, public competitions are used to recruit doctors who are supposed to make no objections to VIP. This situation is often accompanied with the objections of ideologically oriented factions and exhausting legal appeals.
On the other hand, data show a decrease of VIP in Italy, which is a clear sign that law 194/1978 has worked, saving many women from clandestine and illegal abortions. This is also due to the role of consultation services centres, where it is also possible to obtain correct information on contraception. Yet here again, the data show one counselling centre for every 35,000 inhabitants, when the law requires one for 20,000 inhabitants. Not to mention the issues related to Mifepristone, better known as the RU486 pill, which can be used for less invasive pharmacological VIP, as well as the treatment of various clinical conditions such as incomplete abortion and intrauterine foetal death. In June 2020, a Circular of the Minister of Health issued the “guidelines on VIP with RU486”. After four years, this document has been implemented only by a few Italian regions, where one can see great differences regarding the interpretation of the Minister’s guidelines. Some of these interpretations aim at obstructing the use of RU486 for ideological and not medical reasons.
In the end, the aforementioned amendment is another example of how some laws can be used for propaganda purposes, to such an extent that they may be called “propaganda laws”. The example is also given by legislation related to the anti-rave regulation, the ban on cultured meat, the crimes of eco-vandals, the universal crime of surrogacy, the protocol between Italy and Albania aiming at building detention centres for immigrants in Albania, and the tax on banks’ extra-profits (which has not produced any revenue for the State). And, now, there is the law allowing pro-life groups access to abortion clinics.

D 29 April 2024    AFrancesco Alicino AVera Valente

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