In the region of Piedmont, pro-life activists have been allowed into the counseling center or clinic. Three associations against abortion will be at least twice a week in one of these healthcare facilites to support “difficult pregancies” and avoid abortion in Italy. One of them, the Movimento per la Vita Torino, sets its goals clear. One of them is to “promote any type of solidarity for human life, being born, suffering and dying.”
The word “abortion” doesn’t appear anywhere on the associtiaon’s website. Still, experts and healthcare workers know these are pro-life organizations. The regional councilor Maurizio Marrone has defined the decision of Piedmontas the defeat of “ death culture.” Instead of letting professionals in the clinics, the politicians have opened the door to pro-life activists.
The question that women are asking is: is this legal?
Abortion in Italy is legal
In Italy, abortion has been legal since 1978, as long as it happens in the first trimester. After these 90 days, a woman can interrupt her pregnancy for two reasons only: when the mother’s life is at risk and when the fetus has serious medical conditions that can put the mother’s life at risk. So, in case the woman was victim of rape, she can only and legally have the abortion in the first three months.
In 2020, the abortion pill was made legal and it can now be used up to nine weeks without having to go to the hospital. According to the 1978 law, clinics and counseling centers have to inform the woman about her rights and they have to provide solutions. But not forcing decisions. Still, the woman might have decided to move forward with the abortion, even after knowing her options.
..having access to it is difficult
However, she can find a gynecologist that believes in conscientious objection. The doctor knows the pregnant woman has a right to abort, but he objects. So, she needs to find a new facility to undergo the procedure. This possibility is high, since 69% of gynecologists are conscientious objector.
Their reasons? A 2015 study by research anthropologist Silvia De Zordo showed that religion isn’t the only reason. In fact, doctors also identify as objectors because of economical and career reasons. Abortions are routine procedures, sometimes even boring ones. And no one wants to get stuck with them. Plus, abortion is a free procedure, so gynecologists don’t make any money out of it.
According to the Italian Health Minister only 64% of Italian hospitals let women abort. In the region of Campania, barely 30% of facilities offer this procedure to women. Which is illegal, since the law doesn’t allow an entire hospital to be a conscience objector. Only the doctors can.
When there are no other options
Hence, over 5% of Italian women have to move to have access to their right of aborting. This happens for various reasons, including objectors and long waiting times. Sometimes too long, since the 90 legal days pass by fast. So, some women are forced to travel abroad.
All of this while the number of legal abortions in Italy has been steadily dropping. The peak was registered in 1982 with 234.801 cases. In 2017, abortions dropped to 80.733. Experts have been looking into the reasons for this downward trend. But it’s not an easy research, especially due to the lack of data on illegal abortions or the abortions of women who prefer going abroad.
Filomena Gallo is the Secretary of the association Luca Coscioni, a non-profit that believes in respecting women’s bodies and choices.
“Between conscience objectors and counseling centers closing, women are scared of going into a facility to abort and so they choose an illegal procedure, risking a lot,” Gallo said to Il Sole 24 Ore.
In Italy, there is one center for 35,000 people, when the law established one for each 20,000 citizens and in seven Italian regions, the imbalance is so obvious that one center services over 40,000 people. In total, there are 1800 of these structures in the country. So, the support system for women in Italy isn’t nearly enough.
Between the high number of conscience objectors and the low numbers of support centers, the statistics on abortion in italy aren’t reliable. Neither is the Italian system, which leaves women alone and afraid to exercise their right. Indeed, women in Italy have many battles to fight, like the one against the tampon tax.