This article explores obstetricians-gynaecologists’ experiences and attitudes towards abortion, based on two mixed-methods studies respectively undertaken in Italy in 2011–2012, and in Spain (Cataluña) in 2013–2015. Short questionnaires and in-depth interviews were conducted with 54 obstetricians-gynaecologists at 4 hospitals providing abortion care in Rome and Milan, and with 23 obstetricians-gynaecologists at 2 hospitals and one clinic providing abortion care in Barcelona. A medical/moral classification of abortions, from those considered ‘more acceptable’, both medically and morally – for severe foetal malformations – to the ‘least acceptable’ ones – repeated ‘voluntary abortions’, emerged in the discourse of most obstetricians-gynaecologists working in public hospitals, regardless of their religiosity. I argue that this is the result of the increasing medicalisation of contraception as well as of reproduction, which has reinforced the stigmatisation of ‘voluntary abortion’ (in case of unintended pregnancy) in a context of declining fertility rates. This contributes to explain why obstetricians-gynaecologists working in Catalan hospitals, which provide terminations only for medical reasons, unlike Italian hospitals, do not experience abortion stigma and do not object to abortion care as much as their Italian colleagues do.
According to a law that went into effect on 1 September, Spanish physicians may not provide health care for undocumented migrants except in cases of emergency, pregnancy, or delivery. The Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (SEMFyC), supported by the Spanish Medical Colleges, holds that the law is contrary to medical ethics and is advising physicians to become “conscientious objectors” to the law. [Hastings Center Bioethics Forum]
Dr. Carmen Rodriguez, the president of the Asturias Medical College, the official physician’s association for the region of Asturias in the north of Spain, told a local paper that society can make laws concerning abortion, but cannot force physicians to participate in them. [LifeSite News]
Dr. Manuel Resa, a physician who has resisted attempts to force him to participate in abortions, has been granted an injunction by Superior Tribunal of the Autonomous Community of Andalusia in Spain. He appealed to the Tribunal after a lower court refused to grant the injunction. This means that Dr. Resa will not be forced to participate in abortion pending the outcome of his civil suit on seeking recognition of his freedom to refuse to facilitate abortion.
The UNESCO Chair in Bioethics at the University of Barcelona held a seminar on “Abortion and conscientious objection” in early February. The Chair’s director, Maria Casado, told the press that Spain should establish a national registry of physicians who object to abortion as a method of ensuring access to the procedure. While she claimed to support a right to conscientious objection, she said that “When [it] is transformed into a collective stance for ideological reasons, it turns into civil disobedience.” [ELN]
The new Spanish government, which replaced the former socialist government in November elections, plans to revise the country’s abortion law. It had promised to “change the current legislative model relating to abortion in order to reinforce the protection of the right to life as well as female minors”. [AFP]
ECJL | . . .In Spain, health professionals suffer structural and systemic violations of their rights. Doctors, nurses, and other medical staff that object to performing or assisting with abortion procedures are coerced and suffer career-crippling sanctions or are legally prosecuted for attempting to exercise this fundamental right, which is recognized by both European and international law. . . Full Text