Italy probes why women’s names mark aborted fetuses’ graves
Dr. Giovanna Scassellati, chief gynecologist at the induced abortion ward of the San Camillo hospital in Rome, said when women come in to terminate a pregnancy, they are given the option of arranging burial themselves, or having the hospital arrange for it.
“The story of the fetuses is very serious, but our hospital can’t be blamed for it,” she said. “We did not play any role in what happened.”
Aside from public entities such as AMA, private, Catholic volunteer groups that oppose abortion have entered into agreements with hospitals around Italy to perform the burials, though it is unclear if one was involved in the Flaminio scandal.
The “Defend Life with Mary Association,” a Catholic non-profit, is one such group. But the group’s vice-president, Emiliano Ferri, denied that it ever identified women on a grave for a fetus.
Instead, each tomb carries a number that is registered with the authority running the cemetery. A woman could eventually find a grave through that authority.
“How do we work? First of all in complete respect of privacy, not regarding us but in regards to the privacy of those women who aborted,” Ferri said. That said, he acknowledges the religious motivation for his work, which also involves burying younger fetuses if parents request it.
The cemetery scandal has erupted as women in Italy are increasingly reporting that they face discrimination and unsympathetic treatment in the public hospitals that perform the procedures — testimony that Italian newsmagazine L’Espresso has been gathering in a series of reports on what it calls the “torture” that some women undergo.
Even finding a doctor willing to perform the procedure has become difficult: According to health ministry statistics, 68% of Italian gynecologists identify themselves as conscientious objectors and refuse to perform abortions.
“It took me almost 10 days to find a non-objector doctor that would take me in a hospital, and once I entered … everything went wrong,” said Francesca. She said she was induced without an epidural and said she endured the criticism of medical staff during seven hours of labour for having the procedure. Such late-term abortions are legal if the women’s life is at risk.
“Nobody gave me assistance,” she said.
AP visual journalist Paolo Santalucia contributed.