window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'G-XZCLKHW56X'); The gynaecologist and conscientious objection - Ereb

The gynaecologist and conscientious objection


Rome, 7th June 2023

For 36 years I was the only gynaecologist in my hospital who agreed to perform abortions, the only one who was not a ‘conscientious objector’ as we say here in Italy. Making sure women were treated with respect was a continuous and exhausting struggle. I saw some terrible things that scarred me and that still affect me today.

Once, a woman I was performing an abortion on started bleeding very heavily. I was with nurses who weren’t trained for serious procedures, so when I realised that the bleeding wasn’t stopping, I called the operating room in the obstetrics department. Several times. No answer. I was working in a beautiful facility at the time, which had a garden separating the wards and underground corridors connecting them. So, we put the patient on a stretcher and rushed through these underground corridors to the operating theatre.

In the corridors the phone didn’t work, so I ran in front of the stretcher to open the doors and let everyone know what was happening. I shouted, “There’s an emergency!” and asked the nurses to get me the right medicine. We went through the whole gynaecology ward like that, at full speed, sounding the alarm. I expected to arrive in an operating theatre ready with the right drugs and staff to assist me.

But when we arrived, I explained the emergency to the midwife who was there, and everyone disappeared. I found myself alone. Alone with a woman who was bleeding to death. Alone with a woman on the verge of a heart attack. No one brought me the medicine I asked for. No one helped me.

I rang the anaesthetist who said: “Why are you calling me? You know I don’t do abortions.” I was in disbelief, at a loss, enraged. The law is, however, clear, that if the patient’s life is in serious danger, there can be no objection! Frankly, I wanted to slap them, but I had to find a solution. I contacted all my colleagues, and someone finally came and we managed to stop the bleeding.

That time it ended well, but what if the woman had died? Who would have been put in front of a judge? The person in charge of the abortion service, me, the only ‘non-objector The justice system isn’t interested in the environment which prevents you from being able to take good care of your patient or which creates impediments due to ignorance, arrogance, or stupidity.

Before an aeroplane pilot can safely take off, someone has to check the engines, someone else has to put fuel in, and another person has to take care of the passengers… If something goes wrong, you look to see who didn’t do their checks properly or who didn’t assist the passengers properly. With abortions, they don’t even try to understand, they point directly to the ‘non-objecting’ doctor. I’m not saying that this kind of situation happens all the time or everywhere in Italy.

But I know that my colleagues have experienced similar things. The situation is very serious. Movements against the right to abortion are gaining ground and momentum all over the world. If we look at what has happened in the United States, in Poland… The Italian people don’t realise it, but the same thing is happening here


Silvana is a retired gynaecologist in Italy but continues to provide consultations. In her country, abortion has been legal since 1978, but medical staff can invoke the right to ‘conscientious objection’ and refuse to perform abortions. In 2021, seven out of ten gynaecologists in Italy were conscientious objectors.

Silvana chose to share with us a memory that illustrates the dangers of conscientious objection and her concerns about respect for the right to abortion in Italy.

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