Abortion Forum. After the US Supreme Court ruling: what changes for medicine and society. “Resume the momentum of the civil battles of the 70s”

by G.Orlando, T. Borra, M.Prato

‘It is necessary to work for a cultural leap, because it is only a cultural leap that allows these conquests and the new ones to come (euthanasia, jus soli, jus scholae, LGBT rights) to become reality, and take root in the social fabric; “Build on the rock and not on the sand”

15 JUL

There are many reasons for reflection that Professor Maurizio Mori’s article published in QS on the recent ruling of the American Supreme Court against Roe vs. Wade, which opened this discussion forum, gives us. Beyond the broader characteristics connected to the developments of “reproductive rights”, we believe that some very useful lessons for the future can be drawn from this story. We mention a few.

Acquired rights turned out to be a dangerous definition, inducing false confidence. The concept of law is not absolutely definitive and defined. It is enough to recall Marx’s critique of “human” rights, which with their universalism would be an expression of that individualism, the foundation of bourgeois society. We can forget Jeremy Bentham’s critique of natural rights: “That of natural rights it is simply nonsense: natural and inscrutable rights, a rhetorical nonsense, a nonsense on stilts“Or for others a”formula shouted on the paper“.

Bentham says, wanting certain things as rights does not rights, hunger is not bread. Although these rights are today at the center of an important ethical, legal and political debate and there is a fight for their maintenance and conservation, their criticism remains equally lively if not their denial.

We also understood that certain rights are not yet consolidated in the common feeling and are anything but acquired, in the erroneous meaning that we have given them as untouchables; the history of rights is a history in progress, of steps forward and steps backwards depending on theambiance historical, political and social of the times.

We believe it may be useful for this to review for a moment the history of these “civil” conquests in our country.

In 1970 the Baslini-Fortuna Law instituted divorce, and in the same year the Workers’ Statute was born, a great work of synthesis between a prudent political class and a union as united and strong as never before.

Again in 1970 legalization of contraception and abolition by the Constitutional Court of Art 533 of the Criminal Code, dating back to the Rocco Code which prohibited “the propaganda of means to prevent procreation”, included in Chapter X “Of crimes against health and integrity della lineage “abolished in 1978 at the same time as the promulgation of Law 194.

But since the hypocrisy and cultural incrustations in our country are persistent, the term for the commercialization of contraceptive means was “drugs to regularize the menstrual cycle” applying a 1927 rule that prohibited the registration of contraceptive drugs.

Let’s not forget that the law of 6 May 2015 (short divorce) is entitled: “Provisions regarding the dissolution or termination of the civil effects of marriage and communion between spouses”: the word divorce is still taboo, despite the Fortuna-Baslini law.

In 1975, the law establishing the Consultors was approved, which were to be the architrave of a network dedicated to the protection of women’s reproductive health. Network partially disregarded even today.

Also in 1975, the new law of family law which replaced parental authority for parental authority, where father and mother assumed equal duties and dignity.

Finally in 1978 the law 194 on the voluntary interruption of pregnancy; law that, like Baslini – Fortuna on divorce, has faced an abrogative referendum by overcoming it.

So a real tsunami that hit individual recesses hitherto considered inviolable, which in some way reinterpreted the concept of family and also changed medical practice in its doctor-patient relationship.

It happened that in a backward country like ours, a small party, the socialist one, and a lively movement like the Radical one, together with a very strong participation of women on two disruptive issues such as divorce and abortion, have marked the way, that of participatory politics, the 70s were by no means the year of the last major civil reforms in our country.

And this is an important lesson. That momentum needs to be regained.

The practice against the criticisms of the merit of the concept of individual law and against the opposition this is ideological, as in the case of the subversion of Roe vs. Wade with the Dobbs v Jackson judgment of June 24, 2022.

How much can the ruling of the US Supreme Court influence the debate in our country? It is difficult to compare the two legislative and legal systems.

In 1981, the Italians rejected two abrogative referendums that wanted to amend law 194. The Italians chose to preserve the law that allows women to voluntarily interrupt in the ways, times and places provided for by the law within the first 30 days, only for therapeutic reasons between the fourth and fifth month, and recognizes conscientious objection to doctors.

The Radicals were in favor of a full liberalization of abortion by extending it to private nursing homes as well; the Movimento per la Vita had two objectives: either the abrogation of law 194 or the cancellation of the articles that protected women’s self-determination by recognizing only therapeutic abortion as lawful. Both were rejected with a large percentage: the radical one with 88.4% of the no and that of the Movement for Life with 68% of the no. So a great popular legitimacy, always and in any case a good guarantee, as long as attention is relaxed. In Italy the current stalemate is evident, despite some achievements of great value such as the Lenzi law on the end of life n. 219/17.

The contrast to 194 is always active. Sometimes, you know, it is not necessary to abolish a law, it is enough to make it not very usable by all possible means. Most sneaky tool of the Dobbs v Jackson. which, however, did not find very fertile ground in the USA: see the immediate stance taken by some states and by President Biden himself.

We all know the great difficulties that law 194 has always encountered on its path: conscientious objection at unacceptable levels that in certain structures reaches 100%, failure to strengthen the consultatory network, the presence in the Consultors, in some regions, of association pro-life, inadequate evaluation of cases of spontaneous abortions and clandestine abortions, data often used instrumentally by the so-called pro-life associations, the problem of abortion after the third month due to serious risk of the mother or serious malformations of the fetus, so-called therapeutic abortion where conscientious objection can make the woman’s path dramatic. In addition, what is serious, in our universities contraception, abortion techniques and reproductive health of women do not receive great attention in the curricula.

It seems paradoxical but after 50 years, even the “contraceptive revolution” has not yet been fully realized and contraception and termination of pregnancy are closely intertwined. In 2019, Italy was in 26th position with a use rate of 58%, very far from Great Britain, France and Spain, and close to countries like Turkey and Ukraine and still one in 4 people choose interrupted coitus. And also with regard to the introduction of sexual and emotional education as a subject of teaching we are the rear in Europe, if we consider that since 1955 it has been present in Sweden, since 1970 in Austria, since 1995 in Germany, since 2001 in France. , since 2017 in the UK. Italy is at the level of Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Lithuania.

The spread of safe and scientifically advanced contraception and conscious family planning certainly reduce the use of abortion, even if we believe the right to abortion is such regardless of contraception. Certainly it will not be the limitations imposed by an anti-abortion law, as could occur in certain American states.

We remind you that the latest generation contraceptive drugs are the responsibility of the woman; yet another discrimination in health care based on census.

The justification of Aifa (Italian Medicines Agency) is laughable, that is to avoid “a prescriptive orientation towards reimbursable drugs that is not entirely appropriate” an incomprehensible phrase. Even the statement of some critical newspapers on the measure, because there could be an “increase in the use of abortion”, is not correct: abortion is not contraception.

Not to mention emergency contraception, which has always been strongly condemned, with often false arguments such as defining emergency contraception as a real abortion. The importance of the Holy See in this controversy is fundamental: John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae clearly defined that: “abortion and contraception are the fruit of the same plant”, even if they constitute two different infringements of the doctrine. It is statistically confirmed that contraception reduces access to abortion.

It is necessary to work for a cultural leap, because it is only a cultural leap that allows these conquests and the new ones to come (euthanasia, jus soli, jus scholae, LGBT rights) to become reality, and take root in the social fabric; “Build on the rock and not on the sand”. Like all new things that are born, even the new rights need a fertile humus, cultivated with diligence and attention. Therefore a patient work of information, of conversation and above all political; leap that can also occur suddenly, with a Gestalt leap as Prof. Mori often says, if the necessary conditions have been created.

Giacomo Orlando, Tiziana Borra, Maurizio PratoCouncil of Bioethics onlus, Section of Novi Ligure

Read the previous interventions: Maurizio Mori, Anna Pompili, Corrado Melega, Ilenya Goss

July 15, 2022
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