After the tragedy in Italy, a few elements to understand conscientious objection

Publié le 3 Nov, 2016

The announcement of a women dying while trying to give birth to extremely premature twins (cf. Italie : un médecin refuse de « pratiquer un avortement » et relance la question de l’objection de conscience) came up during the peculiar context of a European campaign. This campaign, which has been ongoing for several years, aims at questioning conscientious objection in terms of abortion.

In Italy, though abortion figures are currently stable, around 100 000 every year which is half of 20 years ago[1], the number of abortions has been increasing in the immigrant populations, while it carries on decreasing in the Italian population.

For all these reasons, it is important to separate a media buzz and the possibly very effective way it may take advantage of an extreme case, and the reality of events. Caution is therefore the master word…

… Firstly concerning the appreciation of the actual facts: medical expertise will determine the causes of death and will allow understanding of whether or not abortion could have been a solution. It is very rarely the case. The judicial system, which was called upon should be able to adjudicate over the subject. However, it is already possible to remind people that from what we currently know, a baby born at 19 weeks is not viable. Secondly, the women was taken care of in the emergency service, therefore the doctor was most certainly not alone with her.

If the case was confirmed… Grégor Puppinck, director of ECLJ, wishes to remind people that the objective of “conscientious objection is to preserve life[2]. In this case it would have been licit to intervene in order to save the mother’s life, although by doing so they risked ending the child’s life.” In other words, if the aim is not abortion but the mother’s good, the bad action may be carried out if judged inevitable.


In this case, we shall have to wait for the experts’ conclusions to decide.

 [1] Cf. Does contraception really reduce the number of abortion? Experts’ answer.

[2] Cf. Quid de l’objection de conscience ? “Objection de conscience et droits de l’homme. Essai d’analyse systématique (Consicentious objection and right of men. Systematic analysis essay)”, published in Société, Droit et Religion in the CNRS n° 6, July 2016). A copy of the study can be ask for at See chapter III. 5. a.

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