Young women light flares during the Women March against Violence as part of International Women’s day, on March 8, 2018 in Milan. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO

Valentina Milluzzo was admitted into Cannizzaro Hospital in Catania, Italy after she was suffering from pain caused by early labor complications. The doctor treating Milluzzo refused to abort the fetus because he was a “conscientious objector” to abortion, the BBC reports. The hospital involved has categorically rejected the family’s claims.

Apparently, 70% of Italian gynecologists refuse to perform abortions according to Italian government figures. Italy is a predominantly Catholic country.


The number of abortions performed worldwide is estimated to be 56 million a year between 2010-2014. In the United States, the number reached an annual high of 1.6 million in 1990 and has currently dropped to approximately 1.06 million a year.

The abortion rate in poorer countries has remained stagnant, while the rate in wealthier nations has fallen (25 to 14 per 1,000 women of reproductive age). The rates remain constant regardless of whether the procedures are legal or not. The higher rates in, the poorer countries are often driven by the desire to have smaller families– particularly for economic reasons.


Abortion is legal in Italy and has been so since 1978 if the procedure is completed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After12 weeks it is allowed only if the life of the mother is at risk or there is a problem with a fetus. If there is a chance the fetus can survive outside the womb, termination is lawful only if pregnancy or delivery is a grave risk to the woman’s health.


The U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, in a 7-2 vote, agreed that Ms. Roe’s constitutional rights to privacy were violated by Texas laws that criminalized abortion. But the Court held that states do have an interest in ensuring the safety and well-being of pregnant women, as well as the potential of human life.

A thumbnail summary of the ruling is as follows:

Acknowledging that the rights of pregnant women may conflict with the rights of the state to protect potential human life, the Court defined the rights of each party by dividing pregnancy into three 12-week trimesters:

  • During a pregnant woman’s first trimester, the Court held, a state cannot regulate abortion beyond requiring that the procedure is performed by a licensed doctor in medically safe conditions.
  • During the second trimester, the Court held, a state may regulate abortion if the regulations are reasonably related to the health of the pregnant woman.
  • During the third trimester of pregnancy, the state’s interest in protecting the potential human life outweighs the woman’s right to privacy, and the state may prohibit abortions unless the abortion is necessary to save the life or health of the mother.

The Court further held that a fetus is not a person protected by the constitution. As of April 1, 2016, at least half of the states had imposed regulations on abortion clinics including mandated counseling, a waiting period before an abortion, required parental involvement for minors and restricted use of public funds to pay for abortions.

Doctors can refuse to perform abortion procedures in the United States– Freedom of conscience is not to be surrendered upon issuance of a medical degree. However, the rights of medical personnel to object to carrying out abortions must not interfere with the safety of the patient, the Department of Health has said.


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