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Do we need a stronger law on abortion?

Law 194, the only law on abortion in Italy, is 45 years old and since 1978 it has had no changes despite not always being able to guarantee a true right to abortion. The obstacles were continuous: for everyone lack of staff due to conscientious objection. Countryside Free to Abortstarting from these premises, calls for the overcoming of law 194 with a popular initiative law proposal for which collects signatures (also online) by the first days of November. The objective is to ensure that reproductive freedom no longer encounters moral and administrative obstacles and that voluntary termination of pregnancy is freely accessible.

Vittoria Loffi is responsible for the Free to Abortire campaign: «If on the one hand it is clear that the right has no intention of touching a law that favors it in widespread action, the time has come for the pro-choice front to propose a true right to abortion centered on pregnant bodies. This is our law’s attempt at a popular initiative and a campaign open to every civil and political reality.”

Why do we need a new and different law on the right to terminate a pregnancy?
«We talk about overcoming the 194 but it is something more. We start from that law because it is obviously the legal starting point of our country. However, we must actually change and modify not only the norm but precisely how we think about abortion and voluntary terminations of pregnancy. We need a new law because in Italy the right to abortion has never been created, either legally or culturally. This absence has been burdensome in these 45 years. Law 194 certainly had the great merit of stemming the plague of clandestine abortions. However, he did not give the image of a reproductive right which means full freedom of choice and full self-determination. Let’s then say that the image of women that the mass parties had in the Seventies was not exactly that of a woman who self-determines also through her reproductive rights. One resulted decriminalizationbut the rest of the law bears the image of one granting access by the state, did not constitute a right. We have tried to use different language and to place the person who accesses the service at the center of the law and not the State and the institutions that regulate it.”

What does it take for it to truly be a right?
«There is no right if the person does not come first, his right to access, his right to choice, to information, to a free path, without obstacles, without particular limits. It’s not just the right to abortion because when we talk about the right to abortion we talk about the right to health.”

This law uses different language.
«We made a choice. What has perhaps struck us a little more in recent months is certainly the choice to use the term pregnant person and not a woman. We decided to search for an expression that did not want to universalize, but rather capture the pluriversality of all worlds that is hidden in different gender identities. There are many identities who currently have access to the right, in general, to reproductive health. This evolution cannot be overlooked and the rule is in fact a recognition of equality. Hoping to collect the 50,000 signatures and be able to present the text to the institutions, this legislation would legislate on the termination of pregnancy in the years to come and must take on the burden of equality of different gender identities. In the Seventies it was done with a series of rules that concerned cisgender women, now we are talking about different gender activities: queer, transgender, non-binary, who have the right to recognition of equality also with regard to the right to health”.

Abortion has been talked about in recent years, especially in cases where it was denied.
«This law is intended to be an example for others too. We have chosen to go on the attack to guarantee access to abortion because it is true that there is a part of the world that is trying to cancel this right. In our country every day the 194 is constantly emptied even if it is not touched at a national level, but with local actions also shared enough to deny access or make it almost impossible. The container of the law which in fact does not protect this right is already being emptied and for this reason it is necessary to claim it as much as possible, to define the boundaries of the right to abortion.”

Not only the current government, but also the previous ones have not supported and improved the right to abortion.
«The problem of access to abortion is the main one. We have encountered this several times over the years and no government has intervened. The Meloni government reiterated during the election campaign that it would not want to modify 194. They said this knowing that 194 is not good because staff are asked to do everything to remove the causes of the need for termination of pregnancy, as if there were causes justified for abortion and others that have no reason to exist. There is no word on themedical abortion because at the time it did not exist and never having updated the law allowed many administrations and local governments not to implement the ministry’s indications in this sense”.

How is conscientious objection regulated?
«Abortion is the only form of health care that has guaranteed conscientious objection. In our country there is no other example. Jehovah’s Witness doctors are required to give transfusions, for example. On the one hand we think of the military’s conscientious objection which was an objection to a univocal obligation which led to prison if not fulfilled. On the other side the healthcare personnel exercises the objection after having made three choices of freedom: to study medicine, to specialize in gynecology and obstetrics and then to work in the public sector. We tried to keep two paths together in order to give a coherent panorama. Should the law come into force, staff who choose a certain path will no longer have the possibility of conscientious objection. Those who already object have 60 days to confirm their choice. The goal is to terminate objecting personnel. An obligation is inserted that, at least, at this stage 50% of personnel are not objectors. The service must be guaranteed by all public structures while the affiliated private sector can appeal to the rules not to do so according to 194. Instead, in the regulation that we have devised, all public and activated affiliated structures that have a department must allow the interruption of pregnancy”.

Why so many objectors?
“In Italy most, if not all, conscientious objections are not exercised out of belief, but to make a career in a deviant system that leaves the non-objector to only have abortions and not progress in his job.”

194 required an annual presentation of data.
«Not only are they perpetually late, but when they arrive it is an apathetic report that does not show how that data arrived. They cannot be questioned and practically never coincide with all the data collected from below, by the local territorial movements that deal with the real management of the right to abortion also for people, for example, with a migratory background or people who have encountered difficulty of access. During the pandemic, more than 400 accesses to international networks for termination of pregnancy were recorded, these are accesses by those who were denied their right to abortion and chose an “illegal” route.”

Who are the least protected?
«In reality it is a trans-identity phenomenon. In Lombardy there are structures that object, not just in the South. A girl from Mestre went to four hospitals to get the service. It depends on the lack of guarantee of the service. Then, as far as people with a migratory background are concerned, in our country it is really difficult to terminate a pregnancy: the institutions do not inform, they do not provide adequate accompaniment services and therefore they do not even explain in a simple way that there is a code for a foreigner temporarily present to obtain the service free of charge. It becomes a class issue when you have to pay for an abortion. Then there are the timing. European countries indicate 14 weeks for the termination of pregnancy, in Italy it is 12. This law is not made for those who request the service, but for those who provide it.”

To change this situation, here are the fundamental points of the law:

The recognition of abortion as a reproductive right for every pregnant person

The possibility of aborting without obstacles up to the 14th week of the actual gestational age

The strengthening of pharmacological abortion procedures to be carried out in compliance with WHO guidelines

The progressive overcoming of conscientious objection, which can no longer be invoked for new hires upon entry into force of this law and always guaranteeing, in an intermediate transition phase, at least 50% of non-objecting staff in service in each structure

The strengthening of counseling centers and the restoration of assemblies open to citizens to guarantee accompaniment in paths relating to sexual and reproductive health

The obligation for all affiliated public and private facilities to guarantee access to abortion

The protection of access to abortion for people with a migratory background and the involvement of cultural mediators within the clinics

Secular, scientific and institutional information on abortion paths

Protection of the privacy of the pregnant person

Lowering of the minimum age to terminate a pregnancy without parental authorization or intervention of the guardianship judge to 16 years

Source: Vanity Fair

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