ROME, June 17, 2013 ( – A report by the Italian government has found that more than 80 per cent of gynecologists – in some areas it is believed to be as much as 91 per cent – and over 50 per cent of anesthesiologists and nurses refuse to participate in abortions, and the number is growing.

In response, a group of parliamentarians on the left from various parties have attacked the right to conscientious objection, saying that the government must put quotas into place for recruiting doctors willing to abort babies. One deputy alleged that the refusal of so many doctors and other staff to participate has resulted in an increase in the number of “clandestine” illegal abortions and in the number of Italian women going overseas to abort their children. 

Monsignore Igancio Barreiro, head of the Rome office of Human Life International said pro-life activists “have to be ready to defend the rights of conscience and we know that the proponents of the Culture of Death are ready to attack the right to refuse to do abortions.” 

“We must be vigilant and concerned because this is not something new,” he added. “We have to reaffirm it. It’s a basic human right.” 


A total of nine motions were put forward by pro-abortion deputies in the Chamber last month, calling for “implementation” of Law 194, Italy’s 1978 abortion legislation that legalized abortion on demand up to 12 weeks gestation and later for fetal abnormalities. 

Senator Laura Puppato said that the government must ensure that efforts are made to recruit medical personnel who do not object to abortion. She said this will be facilitated by the availability of the abortion drug RU 486, which was legalized in 2009. She also said the government must also take steps to spread knowledge of “emergency contraception,” or the abortifacient Morning After Pill, and increase education and information on contraception in schools. 

Donata Lenzi, a Deputy with the left-leaning Partito Democratico and head of the parliament’s social affairs committee, lamented that the numbers “mean that voluntary terminations become very difficult. There are even areas in Italy where having an abortion is not possible.” 

Deputy Daniela Sbrollini, vice president of social affairs, warned of a “progressive dismantling of Law 194,” claiming that “the number of illegal abortions has doubled”. She said that the progressive reduction in the number of consultants willing to abort “make law enforcement even more difficult”. 

Sbrollini said “the protection of women’s health is seriously compromised” by the shortage of doctors and long waiting lists. She also called for “greater dissemination of information to the underage girls” regarding abortion. 

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Deputy Irene Tinagli said, “Faced with these numbers and these facts, I would like to ask the Minister of Health [Beatrice] Lorenzin whether she intends to take urgent action to prevent many women being left alone, and having to resort to forms of clandestine abortion, endangering their lives.” 

Marisa Nicchi, a Tuscan Deputy with the Left Ecology Freedom party, along with leader of the House Gennaro Migliore, submitted a parliamentary motion to “compel every public facility to enforce the law 194 in full recognition of the right of free choice and to women’s health.” 

The full report on the implementation of Law 194 will be presented in the second half of 2013. A previous report, published in 2010, noted “a general stabilization of conscientious objection among gynecologists and anesthetists, after a significant increase in recent years.” 

Figures obtained by the government last October found that the national average of objectors among gynecologists rose from 58.7 per cent in 2005 to 70.7 per cent in 2009. The increase among anesthesiologists has been from 45.7 per cent in 2005 to 50.8 per cent in 2010. “Non-medical” hospital staff who refuse to participate in abortions rose from 38.6 per cent to 44.7 per cent. In general, the numbers are considerably higher in the south, with one report saying that Naples, the largest conurbation in the south, was left with no doctors willing to commit abortions for over a year after the last one died. 

The claim by abortion-promoters that restrictions on legal abortion forces women to resort to “unsafe” illegal abortion has achieved the status of legend, but the available figures paint a different picture. In 1969, before the US Roe vs. Wade decision, Dr. Christopher Tietze, a statistician for Planned Parenthood and the Center for Disease Control, wrote for Scientific American that the total number of deaths from all causes among women of reproductive age in the U.S. “is not more than about 50,000 per year”. This made impossible the claim by the early abortion campaigners – which has been repeated ever since – that “tens of thousands of women die from illegal abortions every year”. 

The National Center for Health Statistics listed 235 deaths from abortion in 1965. “Total mortality from illegal abortions was undoubtedly larger than that figure, but in all likelihood it was under 1,000,” Dr. Tietze wrote. A report by Planned Parenthood’s Guttmacher Institute admitted, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 1972 alone, 130,000 women obtained illegal or self-induced procedures, 39 of whom died.” 

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who cofounded the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), admitted in his 1979 book, “Aborting America,” that he and fellow abortion campaigners had simply invented the numbers to promote sympathy for their cause. 

“How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In N.A.R.A.L., we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always ‘5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year’. 

“I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the ‘morality’ of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics? The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible.” 

The number of doctors unwilling to participate in abortion is on the increase in most western countries, a trend that has abortion campaingers increasingly attacking conscience rights. One recent attempt by a British politician to outlaw conscientious objection throughout the EU was soundly defeated and its wording reversed to reaffirm the rights of health care workers. 


Read related LSN coverage:

Pro-aborts worried as number of gynecologists willing to do abortions drops to 30 percent in Italy

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Swedish parliament votes overwhelmingly to fight conscience rights for doctors

UNESCO official calls for national registry of doctors who object to abortion: Spain