The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has censured Italy for failing to provide ready access to abortion throughout the country due to a “high number of physicians” who refuse to carry out the procedure for reasons of conscience.
In its recently released report on Italy (2017), the UN Committee specifically names conscience objection as an obstacle to insuring the availability of abortions throughout the predominantly Catholic nation.
In a section devoted to “voluntary termination of pregnancy,” the Committee notes its concerns over “reported difficulties in accessing legal abortions owing to the high number of physicians who refuse to perform abortions for reasons of conscience and their manner of distribution across the country.”
In 2012, the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN) filed a complaint against Italy to the European Committee of Social Rights, claiming that the country’s high number of conscientious objectors in the medical field resulted in inadequate protection of the right to access abortion and therefore a violation of the right to health.
Conscientious objection among physicians in the matter of abortion is high in Italy, and is protected by laws that shield physicians from being coerced into the practice. As is the case in the United States, conscientious objection is often, though not always, carried out for religious motives and people often invoke the right to religious liberty to opt out of procedures they consider to be immoral.
In its 2017 report, the UN Committee further alleges that the high percentage of doctors who refuse to perform abortions has resulted in “a significant number of clandestine abortions being carried out,” though it fails to provide further information or statistics to back up its claim.
In conclusion, the UN calls on Italy to “take measures necessary to guarantee unimpeded and timely access to legal abortion services in its territory, including by establishing an effective referral system for women seeking legal abortion services.”
Along with abortion, the UN Committee report also takes issues with Italy’s laws regarding the adoption of children by homosexual couples.
Despite Italy’s recently enacted law recognizing same-sex civil unions, “the Committee remains concerned that the Act does not provide same-sex couples the right to adopt children,” the text states.
It also expressed its disapproval of “the continued denial of access to In Vitro Fertilization” for homosexual couples as well as “the prevalence of discrimination and hate speech against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.”
In its worldwide activism promoting abortion-on-demand and gay marriage, the United Nations would appear to grossly overstep its Charter as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes neither of these practices in its lengthy list of fundamental human rights.
In a resolution of the UN General Assembly regarding “Respect for the principles of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of States in their electoral processes” (1996), the organization reaffirmed that nothing contained in the UN Charter “shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the Charter.”
The resolution also reaffirmed the “the right to self-determination, by virtue of which all peoples can freely determine, without external interference, their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
Yet, by applying pressure on independent countries to liberalize their practices to conform to the UN Committee’s current agenda, the United Nations manifests a profound disrespect for the cultural and religious traditions of the sovereign nations that compose it.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome