European & International News

Milestone ruling against Italy on abortion and conscientious objection welcomed by IPPF EN

[Brussels, 08 March 2014, IPPF EN Press Release] The milestone decision on conscientious objection and abortion delivered by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Social Rights is welcomed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN). IPPF EN lodged a collective complaint [1] against Italy which stated that the weak regulation of health personnel’s conscientious objection violates the right to health protection. IPPF EN is pleased to announce that the claim has been successful – and in time for Saturday 8th March, which is International Women’s Day.

The Committee’s decision supports the position held by IPPF EN, LAIGA and the Italian lawyers Marilisa D’ Amico and Benedetta Liberali. They clearly state that conscientious objection cannot stand in the way of women receiving the reproductive healthcare services guaranteed by Italian law. The Italian State is obliged to make sure women get access to abortion services – as and when required. “A woman’s request to abortion cannot be treated as a lottery, dependant on the luck of the patient, her wealth or where she lives,” says Vicky Claeys, the Regional Director of IPPF EN.

IPPF EN is delighted that one of the most important human rights bodies in Europe, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Social Rights, declared that the Italian State must organise abortion services in a way which ensures that patients’ needs are met.

There are serious problems for women who try to access reproductive services in Italy.

A pregnant woman in Rome found out her foetus had a fatal malformation. Her child would not survive the pregnancy. The grief of losing a long hoped-for child was bad enough, but then she found she could not have therapeutic abortion services because there were no non-objecting anaesthetists available. They were all on vacation.

“I’m at the mercy of the clinicians’ vacation schedule!” the woman protested. After a prolonged, and painful, process she finally had her abortion just before the legal gestational term ran out. Her only alternative would have been carrying the pregnancy to term, knowing the whole time that the child would be stillborn.

The Committee confirms that women face numerous challenges regarding abortion services in Italy. For example, waiting times are excessive and sometimes conscientiously objecting health personnel refuse to provide the necessary care before or after abortion. Furthermore, in some areas, there is an imbalance between the need for pregnancy termination and the number of non-objecting competent health personnel available. This means, even though the Italian law should guarantee access to reproductive health care for everyone, women cannot access abortion in all parts of Italy. There are huge difficulties, particularly in the south of Italy and Lombardy.

Therefore IPPF EN welcomes the Committee denouncing the ‘territorial and economic discrimination’ that women face when searching for available abortion services providers.

[1Complaint No. 87/2012, date of adoption 10/9/2013; embargoed until today.

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