Foetus seized in abortion inquiry
John Hooper in Rome
This article appeared in the Guardian on Thursday February 14 2008 on p27 of the International section. It was last updated at 09:28 on February 14 2008.
Police entered a hospital in Naples,interrogated a woman who had just had her pregnancy terminated, andimpounded her aborted foetus after a tip-off from a caller who claimedshe was having the abortion outside the legal time limits.
In aninterview with the paper La Repubblica the woman, known only asSilvana, said: "I didn't understand what was happening. I was stillunder the effects of the anaesthetic. They bombarded me with questions.They gave me the third degree: how did it happen, why did I have anabortion, who was the father?"
In fact, as doctors laterconfirmed, her pregnancy was terminated in its 21st week, which waswithin the period allowed by Italy's 1978 abortion act. The doctorsalso said that tests had shown the foetus had grave abnormalities.
Theincident involving the woman, who said she had wanted the child "at allcosts" and only reluctantly agreed to the termination, comes as thesubject of abortion looks set to play an important role in Italy'sgeneral election in April.
Commenting on the incident in Naples,Livia Turco, the health minister in the outgoing centre-leftgovernment, said: "The witchhunt is on. What happened mirrors theintolerable climate of tension surrounding one of the most dramaticchoices for a woman."
Doctors in Italy can legally performabortions until about the 24th week if the mother's life is at risk orthe foetus is seriously malformed. But critics say the law should bemore restrictive since medical advances make it possible for babiesborn earlier than this to survive.
Giuliano Ferrara, who editsa newspaper supported by Silvio Berlusconi's wife, Veronica Lario, hascalled for the UN to declare a moratorium on abortions, a causeendorsed by Berlusconi himself this week. Like Berlusconi, Ferrara willbe standing for parliament at the general election, but at the head ofan independent, anti-abortion party.