ITALY – Telemedical abortion: experiences and new prospects – a webinar

Webinar speakers: Elena Caruso, Kinga Jelinska, Marta Koguc, Dunia Jelinska, Alessandra Brigo, Giulia Zanini, IVG ho abortito e sto benissimo, Obiezione Respinta

Webinar recording:

Organised by Alessandra Brigo, Elena Caruso, Anastasia Martino, Giulia Zanini

This was the first time that abortion with telehealth was debated in a public forum in Italy. It took place on 27 January 2021 in a webinar whose aim was informing Italian-speaking viewers about this still under-discussed topic in Italy. The feminist debate on abortion in Italy in recent times has generally maintained a focus on anti-choice attacks and condemning the phenomenon of conscientious objection, but lacks a clear and independent political agenda in support of abortion. In response to the outbreak of Covid-19 in Italy, the movement sent a petition to the Ministry of Health to increase access to medical abortion, which was available only in hospitals. But access to abortion pills remains problematic, as provision via telehealth is not permitted and has rarely been advocated for in Italy. Within the movement, a need to spread awareness of providing abortion pills via telehealth has become evident to some advocates, so they put together this first debate to engage a wider audience, including abortion providers, activists and the general public.

The main speakers included Kinga Jelinska, executive director of Women Help Women in Amsterdam, and Marta Koguc, a midwife and clinical manager at BPAS in London. Kinga Jelinska introduced the experience of self-managed abortion through telehealth services where abortion is banned or highly restricted. Marta Koguc illustrated how the introduction of telemedicine at the end of March 2020 transformed abortion provision in Great Britain.

In the discussion with the speakers afterwards, advocates from the Italian pro-choice movement raised the possibility to re-shape the Italian feminist debate in the direction of de-medicalisation and self-management of abortion and other health issues. In particular, the feminist group Obiezione Respinta presented their experience of mapping conscientious objection in public services, and IVG ho abortito e sto benissimo (I’ve had an abortion and I’m fine) highlighted the potential for self-managed abortion to challenge abortion stigma.

The participants and the audience agreed on the need for this fundamental topic to be at the top of the advocacy agenda on abortion in Italy. This event marked a first step for the Italian feminist/pro-choice movement to modify the terms of the public conversation around abortion and strongly encouraged advocacy work to focus on demanding easy access to medical abortion pills and telehealth.

SOURCE: summary by Alessandra Brigo, Elena Caruso, Anastasia Martino and Giulia Zanini, 11 February 2021

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