Italy and abortion

Sir, – I refer to the article "Italy offers taste of what may come over abortion" (May 29th) on the supposedly detrimental effects a right by doctors to conscientiously object to abortion is having in my native Italy.

The writer tells of a woman who died of sepsis after the doctor, for reasons of conscience, allegedly “refused to perform a termination following complication in her twin pregnancy”. This is not correct. The doctor did perform an abortion and the woman died anyway.

Two investigations carried out by the minister of health and by the public prosecutor established that the death of the woman was not due to the fact that the doctor was a conscientious objector.

The first of the two twins was spontaneously miscarried while the second one was aborted by the same doctor who, in that particular circumstance, did not object to performing an abortion as the life of the mother was in imminent danger.


The article also mention a woman from Padua who allegedly had to visit 23 hospitals in three different regions before being able to have an abortion, due to the high number of objectors. This is not correct. An independent inquest has established that she had an appointment for an abortion but then, due to an anxiety crisis, she made 23 phone calls to around 10 other hospitals to find out if she could have an abortion in one of those instead.

There was nothing stopping her having her abortion as originally arranged and eventually the abortion was performed as planned.

Those two examples, presented as evidence that doctors who are conscientious objectors can harm women, are both based on erroneous information.

Moreover, the percentage of objectors among doctors and nurses has increased through the years but this does not affect the general provision of abortions because their number has gone down in the same period.

Of course, it remains the case that direct abortion is a wrong in itself. – Yours, etc,


Research Officer,

The Iona Institute,

Merrion Square,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Laura Fano Morrissey's fascinating piece about how abortion services work on the ground in Italy throws up clear parallels with how much of Irish society works. Who can fail to recognise the story of the Italian doctors who pretend to refuse to do abortions on conscientious grounds when in fact they are only protecting their careers from the disapproval of religious bosses? Toxic cynicism and hypocrisy masked as "goodness" are also a common feature of life here in Ireland, and is too easily forgiven.

Ireland, like Italy, suffers from still being largely beholden to the Catholic Church. It is well established now just how selfish and dishonest the church can be when it feels its interests are threatened, easily jettisoning its "sacred" mission to care for the weak and vulnerable so as to safeguard its worldly prestige and place in the world's hierarchy of importance.

As long as we allow the church to control so many aspects of our society, especially education and health, we are bound to reflect its values and failings. – Yours, etc,


Arbour Hill,

Dublin 7.