Making abortion practice consistent with the law

In Italy, the existing abortion law is continuously disregarded. A proposal for a regional law aiming to eliminate current obstacles to abortion was recently considered in Lombardy, but the goal is to extend it to all of Italy.

Ingrid Colanicchia
Ingrid Colanicchia MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
Making abortion practice consistent with the law - NewsMavens
Lombardy Colonnade, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

Forty-one years after being enacted, the law on voluntary termination of pregnancy is constantly breached across the nation and 68.4% of gynecologists conscientiously object to the proceedure.

The "Luca Coscioni" Association for the Freedom of Scientific Research and the Italian Radicals have created a popular regional initiative to fully implement law 194/1978. The goal is for the provision to spread throughout Italy, while adapting it for every region.

The "Safe Abortion" regional law proposal has already collected enough signatures to be considered in Lombardy and will soon end up on the table of every regional legislative office in the country.

These are simple and concrete proposals that would not only allow women to face fewer obstacles in the process of terminating a pregnancy, but that above all would also allow Italy to stop being an incoherent country, one that grants a right with one hand and takes it away with the other.

Details from the story:

On May 22, law 194/1978, which is the law on voluntary interruption of pregnancy (ivg), turned 41 years old. The law has a long history, but still needs to be defended from those who would have it repealed in the Parliament, or who would have it applied incorrectly.

In 2003, the World Health Organization published a significant document, a manual of sorts, on safe abortion (Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems, Geneva, 2003, in www.who.int.), where it is emphasized that national legislation in this area must comply with certain standards.

Comparing these standards with the Italian situation regarding the application of law 194, it is obvious that there are many failures to comply with WHO prescriptions. For example, in Italy:

  • the objecting doctors do not refer the woman to a non-objector doctor;
  • the guarantee of confidentiality is not adequately respected;
  • there is unjustified resistance to the use of more modern and less invasive methods;
  • Professionals and institutions offering abortion procedures are severely restricted.

For example, the number of conscientious objectors is very high: on a national scale, 68.4% of gynecologists objected; 45.6% of anesthesiologists; and 38.9% of non-medical personnel. In some regions the figures are even higher: in Molise 96.4% of gynecologists object; in Basilicata 88%; in Bolzano 85% of gynecologists and 63.3% of anesthesiologists.

The "Safe Abortion" regional law proposed by the "Luca Coscioni" Association for the Freedom of Scientific Research and the Italian Radicals consists of 10 points:

  1. Information (procedures, access to services) on voluntary termination of pregnancy (IVG) will be understandable, comprehensive and easy to find even online and by telephone.
  2. Any regional information point or clinic can make appointments in any region, to avoid women having to go through exhausting searches or queues.
  3. The activities, quality of the services and their homogeneity on the territory will be monitored annually and new methods and greater efficiency will be implemented where necessary.
  4. Family counselors will become the primary assistants during IVG services and will be re-qualified to: provide better assistance (also thanks to a possible upgrade in the equipment) and to carry out certain stages of IVG procedures (e.g. pharmacological abortion).
  5. All hospital facilities will guarantee that urgent cases will be handled promptly and adequately.
  6. The obligation of hospitalization for pharmacological IVG will be eliminated thanks to clinics that will carry out some phases of the procedure.
  7. Accredited facilities for medically assisted procreation and prenatal diagnosis will ensure treatment continuity for women who request abortion as a result of diagnosing fetal abnormalities or risks to the patient, accompanying the women in their choices.
  8. Women who request IVG will receive, during or immediately after the procedure, contraceptive counseling and, if required, contraceptives (including long-term ones) be provided free of charge at the hospital.
  9. Women who cannot find emergency contraception drugs will be provided assistance for immediate access.
  10. The region will finance training and update courses on surgical and pharmacological techniques of abortion, contraception, as well as related epidemiological, psychological and sociological issues.
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