The European Committee of Social Rights of the Council of Europe recently declared the appeal against Italy by the NGO International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF En), in collaboration with the Laiga (Free Association gynecologists for the application of law 194) admissible.
According to the IPPF En, the high number of conscientious objector medical personnel in Italy does not guarantee the right of women to have access to the procedures for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy, as established by Law 194, and therefore violates the right of women to health and the right not to be discriminated against, enshrined in the European Social Charter.
Article 9 of the above law, in fact, does not indicate the concrete measures that hospitals and regions must implement to ensure adequate availability of non-objecting medical personnel in all public health facilities, in order to ensure access to procedures for the termination of pregnancy.
The data of the last report to parliament of the Ministry of Health on law 194 show that 44.7 per cent of anesthetists and almost 70 percent of gynecologists refuse to do abortions, confirming the continuous increase of the latter from 2005 to the present.
Most of the non-objectors are between 50 and 60 years old and have a technical background. The younger medical generation have not been taught how to perform abortions at University. In short, there is little generational replacement possible.That means that if steps are not taken, there is a risk that even having a law guaranteeing the right to abortion on paper, this will not be possible in practice.
By 6 December the Italian government must send its arguments with respect to the right to abortion, and by January 17 IPPF will respond to it. However there are strong doubts that it may be accepted, with regard to the European position on conscientious objection: in 2010, in fact, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution that provides its protection in the event of voluntary interruption of pregnancy.
The objection implements the freedom of conscience principle and guarantees freedom of expression consistent with someone’s own actions. But what about freedom of those who decide to terminate their pregnancy?