Abandoned by all medical staff

Why is it a problem when medical personnel are allowed to refuse to perform abortions because of their “sincere religious beliefs”? Well one reason – though only one – is cases like one that happened in Rome in October 2010.

Valentina Magnanti was forced to abort her dead foetus in a toilet in Rome’s Sandro Pertini hospital, abandoned by all medical staff and with only her husband to assist her. This is what can happen when medical staff are allowed to follow their “consciences” and refuse to participate in abortions.

She has a rare genetically transmitted disease, but she couldn’t get tested early in her pregnancy because of a horrible law passed by the Berlusconi government in 2004. She had to wait until the fifth month, only to find out that the fetus did indeed have the disease.

Her gynaecologist refused to help her. She finally found a gynaecologist at the Sandro Pertini hospital who would sign the necessary paperwork. After being admitted to the hospital, she was given drugs to induce the abortion and was told that she would feel no pain.

“Instead… It was hell. After fifteen hours of excruciating pain, between spasms of vomiting and moments when I passed out, with my husband always at my side, not knowing what to do, going to the doctors and nurses asking them to help me, to no avail, I gave birth in the hospital toilet. With only Fabrizio by my side.” No one came to help her. “Perhaps because during the period between being admitted to hospital and giving birth, the shifts had changed, and all the doctors on duty then were objectors.” While she was in agony, a group of anti-abortion activists came in, “carrying copies of the gospel and making threatening comments.”

That’s one reason.

Valentina was caught between two laws: one which denied her the right to assisted conception, leaving her with no option but an abortion, and another which allowed medical personnel the right to refuse to go to the aid of a suffering patient having an abortion. 70% of Italian medical personnel are “objectors”, and in the Lazio region – capital, Rome – that rises to 90%, making it very unlikely that Valentina’s experience is an isolated case.

Are 90% of Lazio’s doctors and nurses really fervent Catholics? Or for some is claiming the right to “freedom of conscience” simply the path of least resistance to a successful career? Exactly what kind of conscience allows doctors and nurses to leave a woman in agony on a bathroom floor as she loses the baby she has longed for for years?

Did you catch that? 90% of medical personnel in Rome refuse to participate in abortions.

If men got pregnant…


  1. AsqJames says

    Did you catch that? 90% of medical personnel in Rome refuse to participate in abortions.

    Lazio is much bigger than just Rome. Here’s a map. It has population of over 5.5 million, only about 2.5 million of which live in Rome.

    I don’t know how the dynamics would work – whether large metropolitan areas like Rome have similar levels of “objectors” as smaller towns, or whether one or the other would be higher. The point is five and a half million people live in this region, Valentina simply can’t be the only one to have experienced this.

  2. Katherine Woo says

    Repulsive. Just sick beyond words and a total abdication of medical ethics.

    How ironic the ‘pro-life’ movement has some many callous, inhumane people. You only have human rights until you actually become a real, live, breathing human I guess.

  3. Decker says

    That same 90% who refuse to participate in abortions out of deeply held Catholic beliefs probably all use birth control…

  4. says

    Of course there is a secular argument against abortion. Like the religious argument it references the sanctity of life. It just does not attribute it to God however. Though once a central nervous system has been developed it becomes next to impossible to justify abortion on both legal and moral grounds with only the one obvious exception [ womans life in danger ] But plenty of time before that to decide whether to abort or not and the reason does not matter. For one thing the law is absolutely crystal clear on this here in England

    So aborting a foetus before twenty four weeks because it is female for example [ a recent controversy over here ] cannot be denied simply because the reason is unacceptable. There is no specific requirement as to what that reason should be and a woman does not even have to give one. As long as the decision is one she is making of her own free will. Furthermore it is the doctor who would object to the reason and not the woman but that is completely wrong because it actually bypasses the law. It may seem a terrible thing to say but it is not. Because before the development of a central nervous system the foetus cannot feel pain and is not a human being as such. So whatever reason is given has to be accepted. The opinion of the doctor is completely irrelevant

    Anyone who has a contract of employment that stipulates they have to carry on certain procedures must be held accountable if they choose not to. They cannot cherry pick which parts they can and cannot do. If there are moral objections to performing those procedures then they should not be in that job in the first place. A contract of employment is legally binding and if one does not abide by it one could lose their job. I understand fully why some doctors would object to performing abortions but if that is the case then they are in the wrong profession. Also other situations too. Like registrars refusing to officiate at gay weddings or chemists refusing to sell condoms for example. If your conscience is stopping you from doing your job then you need to find another one. Simple as that

  5. says

    Medical personnel do have a right to conscientious objection. It’s called “finding another fucking job”. You don’t get to object to doing your job and also stay employed. This is completely uncontroversial in any other job. Why is pregnancy so special?

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