Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Council of Europe committee attacks Italian law allowing doctors to refuse to commit abortions

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, March 10, 2014  (LifeSiteNews.com) – The International Planned Parenthood Federation has scored a major victory against conscientious objection laws in Italy at the Council of Europe. The council’s European Committee of Social Rights voted this weekend to uphold IPPF’s complaint against Italy that too many doctors are allowed to refuse to participate in abortion.

The complaint was launched in November 2012 by International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPFEN) claiming that Italian doctors were “abusing” the right, granted in Italy’s abortion law, not to be forced to commit abortions. It alleged that the Italian law is in “violation of the right to health … due to inadequate protection of the right to access procedures for the termination of pregnancy.”

The law, they said, “does not indicate the precise means through which hospitals and regional authorities are to guarantee the adequate presence of non-objecting medical personnel in all public hospitals, so as to always ensure the right of access to procedures for the termination of pregnancy.”

“Due to this lack in the normative framework, there exists an inadequate application of Law no. 194 of 1978, as demonstrated by the facts relating to practice, which in turn compromises the rights to life, health and self-determination of women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.”

Last year, the Italian government released statistics showing that throughout the country 70 percent of Italian gynecologists refuse to participate in abortion. This number rises to as much as 90-95 per cent in some regions. Abortion lobbyists both in Italy and at the European level, have fought for decades to abolish the section of Law 194, Italy’s law legalizing abortion, that protects the right to conscientious objection for doctors and other health professionals.

The committee voted to support the IPPF’s complaint by an overwhelming majority of 13 votes to one. Marilisa D’Amico, a feminist lawyer and former Partito Democratico politician in Milan, helped bring the complaint. She commented to Corriere della Sera newspaper, “In short, the judgment says that Italy will have to demonstrate that they have changed course. I hope that as soon as possible the necessary measures are taken to apply to all 194 national structures.”

Vicky Claeys, regional director of IPPF, said the government of Italy has “demonstrated a fundamental lack in the application of Italian law.”

“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,” Claeys said in a press statement. 

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Eugenia Roccella, a deputy and former state secretary for health, and a former feminist, said the decision was just another example of IPPF, a “dark body,” using the Council of Europe to “attack” the rights of a sovereign country to mind its own affairs.

“It is not the first time that the IPPF, a non-governmental organization that promotes anti-natalism, abortion and contraception, often with questionable methods, has tried to attack Italy on the law 194,” Roccella said. The decision is “totally unjustified and pretentious,” and a result of “a lack of knowledge of the Italian data.”

“It should be remembered,” Roccella said, “that the Council of Europe in October, 2010 adopted a resolution with great force that defends the right to conscientious objection and extends it not only to people but also to the institutions.”

She added that according to the latest report from the Italian Parliament there is very little demand for abortion in Italy, the non-objecting gynecologists recording only 1.7 abortions per week throughout the country. 

“So it’s obvious that it is not the number of objectors, however high it is, that creates any inconvenience in the application of 194, but the organization of the health regions.” 

Although the committee’s decision has no binding legal power over Italy’s government, Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, head of the Rome office of Human Life International, told LifeSiteNews today that it is “an important bullet in the hands of the pro-abortionists in Italy’s government to increase pressure against gynecologists.”

“The ruling will increase the already heavy pressure to change the law,” he said.

Msgr. Barreiro said that the action by IPPF and their supporters at the Council of Europe is “particularly concerning” because it is a direct attack on the principle of legal protection for conscientious objection in Italy and an attempt to sideline or even abolish a genuine human right to make way for creating a bogus “right” to abortion.

“Partisans of abortion,” he said, “have been attacking the right of conscientious objection for years and this inexplicable decision really puts pressure on Italy’s government to decrease a real human right, the right not to be forced to commit a crime.”

In 2010, the Council of Europe resoundingly rejected an attempt to effectively abolish conscience rights throughout Europe. A report issued by a British delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Christine McCafferty, was re-titled “The right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care.”

Instead of creating a requirement for doctors to participate in abortion, the re-writing of the proposal affirmed their right to refuse, saying, “No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason.”

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