Late abortion in Italy: conflicts around the fetus' "life" & "death" in public maternity hospitals
Silvia De Zordo (University of Barcelona)
Paper short abstract:
This presentation examines health professionals’ experiences and attitudes towards late abortion, and explores how they deal with the medical and moral conflicts raised by women’s choice to interrupt a pregnancy in the second trimester and with the clinical handling of the aborted fetus.
Paper long abstract:
This paper presents and discusses the results of a qualitative research on health professionals' experiences and attitudes towards abortion and conscientious objection, carried out in 2011 in four public maternity hospitals located in Rome and Milan (Italy). This presentation focuses on health professionals' experiences and attitudes towards late abortion. It explores how health professionals, particularly obstetricians-gynecologists, deal with the medical and moral conflicts raised by women's choice to interrupt a pregnancy in the second trimester and with the clinical handling of the aborted fetus. The paper explores first health professionals' and particularly obstetrician-gynecologists' representations of the embryo and the fetus, along with their attitudes towards first trimester versus second trimester abortion. It then compares the attitudes of physicians providing abortion services with those of physicians who refuse to provide abortion services in Rome, where there is a very high rate of conscientious objection among gynecologists, and Milan, where there is a much lower rate of conscientious objection. The second part of the paper examines obstetrician-gynecologists' opinions on late abortion, particularly on time limits and on the reanimation and burial of the aborted fetus. The paper's conclusions discuss how health professionals' attitudes towards late abortion and the aborted fetus are affected on the one hand by their appropriation of the current Italian debate on abortion and women's rights and by their individual religious and moral convictions, and, on the other hand, by their clinical training and experience.