UN rights panel urges Italy to ensure access to safe abortions

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UN rights panel urges Italy to ensure access to safe abortions
Protesters during a demonstration in Italy in 2008 to protect the country's abortion law. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has urged Italy to ensure women have access to free and safe abortion services amid concerns over the high number of doctors who refuse to provide terminations.


The committee on Tuesday said it was “concerned for the difficulty of access to legal abortions” and therefore “the significant number of back-street abortions”.

The panel urged the government to “adopt necessary measures to guarantee the free and timely access to legal abortion services”.

Some 70 percent of doctors in Italy refuse to terminate pregnancies, saying it goes against their Christian conscience.

The UN panel’s call comes a month after a Rome hospital caused an outcry after hiring two specialist abortion doctors due to the high number of conscientious objectors, 78 percent of which are in the Lazio region.

Lazio’s regional governor, Nicola Zingaretti, had planned for the two doctors to be hired at Rome’s San Camillio hospital – one of the largest in the capital – where they would be tasked specifically with carrying out abortions.

Meanwhile, women who have illegal abortions face fines of between €5,000 and €10,000, which were introduced last year.

Read more: Anger as Italy fines women up to €10k for secret abortions

The new fines replaced a 'symbolic' fine of €51, which had been given to women who obtained an illegal abortion, and was aimed at encouraging them to denounce doctors who performed it as well as encourage them to use the state healthcare system in case any complications arose.

Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978. Women are entitled to terminate a pregnancy within the first three months. After 90 days, abortions are only allowed if the foetus is badly harmed or the mother's life is at risk.


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