ITALY – The hyper-regulation of abortion care in Italy

by Elena Caruso

International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 19 September 2023  (Open access)


This paper argues that the current abortion regulation by Law 194/1978 is an inadequate basis for the provision of good quality abortion care and must be reformed. First, the paper explains why Law 194/1978 creates a hyper-regulatory regime that is inconsistent with the best clinical evidence and practices in the field as well as relevant international human rights law, as outlined in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2022 Abortion Care Guideline. Second, it highlights gaps between what the law says and what happens in practice, pointing out how the everyday life of Law 194/1978, especially in the practices of gynecologists, is far removed from international standards of quality abortion care and has yet to comply with international human rights law. Third, it sets out some alternative routes to abortion access “outside” Law 194/1978. Finally, it concludes with some suggestions for a change in the practice of gynecology and a call for the reform of Law 194/1978, in favor of a bodily autonomy model of regulation grounded on decriminalization, demedicalization, dehospitalization, and self-management to ensure compliance with the WHO standards and international human rights law.