Italy is violating women’s rights to health according to a new statement by the Council of Europe.
The Council’s Social Rights Committee has found that women in Italy continue to encounter ‘significant difficulty’ in accessing abortion, even though abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978.
The Italian government estimates that 70% of Italian doctors are now ‘conscientious objectors’, meaning they refuse to perform an abortion on the grounds of religion.
IPPF EN brought this issue to light as far back as August 2012 after filing a complaint highlighting the serious difficulties in obtaining safe abortions after doctors refused to carry out the procedure.
As a result, the Committee confirmed that once States introduce statutory provisions allowing abortion in some situations, they must ensure that the conscience clause does not prevent patients from obtaining access to services. This position was also confirmed by a resolution by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
CGIL, the largest Trade Union in Italy, subsequently filed a new complaint in 2013 stating that the situation in Italy as underlined by IPPF EN, remained completely unchanged, if not deteriorated.
CGIL ascertains that the Health Ministry drastically underestimates the number of illegal abortions carried out in Italy saying it could be as high as 50,000 a year. The union also found that non-objecting medical practitioners face discrimination in terms of workload, distribution of tasks, and career development opportunities.
Four years after IPPF EN filed the initial complaint very little has changed. This has a severe impact on the health and well-being of all women and girls of reproductive age, and could lead to a substantial increase in unsafe, illegal abortions.
Please click here to see the Decision on the Merits on the Complaint 91/2013 CGIL vs Italy
Article 194 of the law allows women to terminate their pregnancy within 90 days. An ongoing campaign using the #Save194 hashtag on social media aims to safeguard the rights of women and providers to act within the law. The campaign also raises awareness of the existence of doctors who are "conscientious objectors", highlighting that in doing so, the law allowing abortion becomes inapplicable.