ROME, March 13, 2014 ( – The pro-life movement in Italy has come out swinging against an order by the Council of Europe to abolish the country’s legal protection for conscientious objectors against abortion. Gianfranco Amato, the head of the campaign group Giuristi per la Vita (Jurists for Life), said at a press conference yesterday that the clause in the abortion law 194, “remains the only form of defence against an unjust law.”

Amato said, “Freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the foundations of a democratic society.” 

The committee’s decision came in response to a complaint, launched in November 2012 by International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPFEN) and an Italian labour union, claiming that Italian doctors were “abusing” the conscience protection clause in Law 194. IPPF made the complaint when the government announced in its annual statistics that between 70 and 90 percent of gynecologists in the country refuse to participate in abortion.


Some in the secular media are defending the decision of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Social Rights to uphold a complaint against the law, saying that it has created a “totalitarianism” of pro-life doctors who commit “psychological violence” against women who want abortions. The criticism comes as Italian media are publicizing the case of a woman who is claiming that two years ago she miscarried in a hospital bathroom after doctors refused to do an abortion. Valentina Pertini has launched a court case to review the law this week, aiming to add political pressure immediately following the Council of Europe committee’s non-binding decision.

In response to the Pertini case, Amato said that there has never been any record of a case of a woman being refused abortion because of a lack of willing personnel. “You have to check in detail what happened,” he said, but warned that “certain issues” are always subject to “a certain mystification by propaganda.” 

“Again, the official statistics have never shown a case of refusal of a request for abortion.” The idea that doctors are obliged to commit abortions is a recent innovation, he added. “Remember that the Hippocratic oath originally stated that the doctor should never administered an abortion drug.”

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“Since the dawn of medicine,” he said, “the idea that they should not ever cause death predates Christianity and is part of the natural law.” He added, “The medical profession has the purpose of life, not of murder. The Hippocratic oath also pronounces against euthanasia.”

IPPF and abortion campaigners within the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (Italian General Confederation of Labour, CGIL) have demanded that medical associations only accept those willing to participate in abortion as medical students. They have argued that since the law was put in place 40 years ago, all medical students in gynecology now understand that the specialty will inevitably involve killing unborn children. They claimed to the Committee of Social Rights that the lack of willing doctors has placed undue burdens on those willing to commit abortions.

But Amato submitted data to the committee showing that the demand for surgical abortion in Italy is extremely low and that non-objecting doctors spend only a few hours per year on the procedure.

“CGIL deliberately made ​​confusing claims that doctors are doing abortions in every hospital, an absurd claim, which does not exist for any surgical specialty,” he said. The campaigners, he said, have “screamed scandal because one or another hospital does not do abortions, without taking into account that, in the same town or a few miles away, the service is guaranteed.”

He cited the government’s statistics that showed a decrease in the time between the issuance of the document allowing abortion and the scheduling of the surgery, an “indicator that the efficiency of the service has increased over the last three years,” Amato said. In 2011, 60 per cent of abortions took place within 14 days of issuing the document. That time has been reduced to an average of seven days.

“Do you know any other non-urgent surgery, which has a figure like that?” The figures show that non-objecting doctors have an abortion-related average workload of 1.7 abortions per week, he noted.

“When the ideological fury collides with reality, sometimes the impact is very violent,” he added.