IPPF EN is extremely pleased at Italy’s unveiling this week of new guidelines on medical abortion. The updated rules will be a great step forward for reproductive freedom in Italy, which has been curtailed for many years by the government’s failure to protect access to legal abortion care, in particular by allowing the widespread and systemic denial of care by medical professionals and institutions.
The breakthrough comes after a decade-long campaign by Italian pro-choice activists. Announced by Health Minister Roberto Speranza on 8 August, the details of the reform were confirmed in the new guidelines released on 13 August.
A key change is the removal of a medically unnecessary requirement for a 3-day hospital stay in order to access medical abortion, which served only as an obstacle to care. Crucially, provision of medical abortions will be extended to local, public health centres and family planning services, making this essential healthcare more accessible to local communities and in particular vulnerable groups such as young people, migrant women and those with limited financial means.
The timeframe during which a woman or girl can access medical abortion has also been increased from 7 to 9 weeks since her last menstrual period, in line with World Health Organization recommendations and most other EU countries, thereby doing away with another arbitrary hurdle to those in need of abortion care.
Medical abortion was approved over 10 years ago in Italy, but has had limited take-up as a result of the previous restrictions. The opportunity for positive change is all the more significant, given the obstacles to abortion care imposed by a system that for years has refused to protect women’s health and dignity.
“This bold move by the Italian government is a resounding victory. It follows protests in Perugia in June by activists outraged at a latest attempt to undermine women’s health and dignity. The new guidelines show that politicians have finally listened to calls to make women’s healthcare a priority. We believe that the new rules will support women’s freedom to access safe and respectful healthcare when they need it most,” said Irene Donadio, Senior Advisor at IPPF EN.
Campaigners and advocates will now need to focus their attention on the regional level, where coercive forces in some parts of the country are expected to try and stand in the way of the greater reproductive freedom that is made possible by the new guidelines. Training and financing will also be needed to support implementation of the new measures. Nevertheless, this week’s developments go beyond rhetoric and pave the way for true change in women’s lives.
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Photo: RICA Prochoice/RU2020, Claudio Colotti