ITALY – Eight years later, the right to health and non-discrimination in abortion services still not secured

In 2013 and 2015, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), a monitoring body of the European Social Charter) made two negative judgments on problems related to Italian abortion services. In 2020, they reviewed the situation and have now published their response. They consider that the situation has still not been brought into conformity with the European Social Charter (ESC) even now. The violations involved are related to Article 11 of the European Social Charter, which is about the right to health, both alone and in conjunction with Article E of the European Social Charter on non-discrimination.

A violation of the right to health was found because of the lack of abortion providers, due to the high number of medical practitioners who claim conscientious objection. The violation of the right to non-discrimination was due to the discrimination suffered by those who are forced to travel around Italy or abroad in order to access abortion care even though it is legal. In the 2015 decision, the issue of violation of a labour law was raised concerning acts of discrimination against and moral harassment of non-objecting doctors, presumably by those who are anti-abortion.

In March 2021, the European Committee of Social Rights announced that the follow-up review confirmed the continuing violation of these human rights standards. The ESRC also asked Italy to comment on allegations by Human Rights Watch that Covid-19 has exacerbated obstacles to accessing legal abortion in the country.

Thus, almost 8 years after the first complaint in 2013, Italy continues to fail to guarantee effective access to abortion and inadequately enacts its own national laws in compliance with international human rights standards and in line with what is expected from the Council of Europe’s member States.

Report by Elena Caruso, E-mail, 11 April 2021

FULL ECSR REPORT (204 pp.): Follow-up to Decisions on the Merits of Collective Complaints: Findings 2020

ECSR, 2013. International Planned Parenthood Federation-European Network (IPPF-EN) v Italy. Complaint No.87/2012, decision on the merits of 10 September 2013, Resolution CM/ResChS(2014)6.

ECSR, 2015. Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL) v Italy, Complaint No 91/2013, decision on admissibility and the merits of 12 October 2015, Resolution CM/ResChS(2016)3.
ICWRSA. Council of Europe criticises Italy over difficulty in obtaining abortions. 20 April 2016.

ICWRSA. Resolution by the Committee of Ministers, Council of Europe, on abortion-related discrimination in Italy. 25 July 2016.

Human Rights Watch. Italy: Covid-19 exacerbates obstacles to legal abortion. 30 July 2020.