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Thousands of Italians join the March for Life in Rome.Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews

STRASBOURG, France, April 12, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The European Council has charged Italy with discriminating against women because most doctors in that country refuse in conscience to do abortions.

The Council of Europe’s social rights committee was responding to a two-year-old complaint from the Communist-aligned Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) about both the alleged difficulty women face finding a willing doctor and the alleged discrimination abortionists face from their peers. According to the committee, this includes “various types of direct and indirect labour disadvantages.”

With 70 percent of Italian gynecologists refusing to do abortions on average, and as high as 90 percent in a third of the country, the CGIL claimed that many women had to travel for the procedure or even get an illegal one. While the Health Ministry, which reports abortion statistics in detail under the Law 194 that legalized abortion, estimates a maximum of 14,000 illegal abortions are done yearly, the CGIL estimates the number at 50,000.

Declared the Council, which is composed of politicians and not judges, “These situations may involve considerable risks for the health and well-being of the women concerned, which is contrary to the right to the protection of health.”

Virginia Coda Nunziante, president of the Association for the Defence of the Family, told LifeSiteNews that the CGIL and the Council “would like to oblige abortion everywhere” by forcing all hospitals and doctors to do them. She added, “It is not true that women can’t get abortion. There are a lot of hospitals and doctors willing to do it. You can get it anywhere.”

The Italian Health Ministry has already responded with a statement reporting 60 percent of hospitals in the country did abortions. Earlier reports indicate nearly 90 percent of abortions are done in the woman’s home region.

The Free Italian Association of Gynecologists for the Application of Law 194 (LAIGA) insists that all hospitals should do abortions.  Its president, Silvana Agatone, told The Local, “The law gives women the choice to have an abortion in a safe and secure way, not in a secret, dangerous way, which is what many end up doing.”

But Massimo Gandolfini, a spokesman for the anti-abortion group Associazione Scienza e Vita, said most doctors believe, “The murder of a small human being is not part of a doctor’s cultural heritage.” His group calls for women seeking abortion to be “healed and assisted,” he told the same news agency, rather than given abortion.  

Italy has about 200 abortions per 1,000 live births, around 100,000 legal abortions a year. As more doctors refuse to do abortions, fewer Italian women want them every year, though the decline is only slightly sharper than that in the country’s birth rate. A disproportion of Italy’s abortions are secured by foreign residents, who had three times the abortion rate of Italian women and half the total number of abortions in 2013.

The Rome March for Life is scheduled for May 8, focused on opposing pending euthanasia legislation.

The Italian government must now reply formally to the complaint.