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Mifepristone, the Vatican and the women of Italy

category italy / switzerland | gender | press release author Sunday August 09, 2009 19:48author by FdCA Ethics & Gender Policies Commission - Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchiciauthor email internazionale at fdca dot it Report this post to the editors

It's a hot summer. What better than a nice clerical problem to distract us from more serious problems and get us worked up? After years of interference from the clerics, the Italian Medicines Agency, AIFA, has finally approved the use of Mifepristone (the WHO did in 2003). [Italiano]

Mifepristone, the Vatican and the women of Italy

It's a hot summer. What better than a nice clerical problem to distract us from more serious problems and get us worked up? After years of interference from the clerics, the Italian Medicines Agency, AIFA, has finally approved the use of Mifepristone (the WHO did it in 2003). The collapse of the Vatican's dam has even stunned senator Salvatore Cuffaro, who has suddenly become concerned for women's health: indeed, 29 deaths throughout the world since 1986, even if they are connected to a slightly different protocol than the one which has now been adopted, is certainly food for thought! Compared to the hundreds of thousands of women who die every year thanks to illegal or unsanitary abortions, or the women who die in childbirth or after giving birth because they were victims of genital mutilation, it is nothing. We would be much more concerned with the over 80 women killed in Italy in 2008 alone by (mostly) Italian men, husbands, ex-partners, boyfriends, live-in partners... a steady trickle that the so-called draconian laws on the matter cannot influence in any meaningful way as long as the sexist society and way of life remains.

Indeed, the polemics about Mifepristone are entirely instrumental and have nothing whatever to do with women's physical health. After decades of use, the data on the drug speaks clearly: it reduces health risks to the woman by avoiding the need for surgery, and it reduces the probability of the decision and any intervention reaching the last few weeks of the term permitted for surgical abortions, thereby encouraging terminations in the very earliest stages of cellular division of the fertilized egg. There is also silence from those who have in the past noted the commercial aspect of the introduction of Mifepristone onto the Italian market, apparently due to an excess of charity, given the scandal about the swine flu vaccine - millions of euro worth of business for the company involved, and certainly a much greater unknown given that the most important clinical trials will be those on the public themselves following its introduction onto the market.

Getting back to Mifepristone, the second problem seems to be the psychological health of women. Indeed the most serious contraindication already appears in Genesis 3:16 - "To the woman he said ... in pain you shall bring forth children" (and, presumably, you shal abort...). A pill? No, that's too easy, they say, as if we ere talking about an over the counter drug and not something that is only used under strict observation, given its particular nature. Too little risk, too little pain? Enough to threaten excommunication on Italians who sell, prescribe and use Mifepristone. A threat which is unlikely to stop anyone, especially given that so many legislators who strenuously defend the Church and Christian values are themselves outside the Roman Catholic fold, as they love the family so much, most of them have at least two.

There are few voices of common sense in Italy, reminding us that we already have a law regulating abortions, that this pill will allow abortions to take place before the embryo is formed, that the decision - late as it is - is an entirely reasonable one which will allow us to avoid the worst consequences of surgical abortion and make substantial savings for the health service in terms of surgical operations.

We long ago stopped wondering why the Catholic Church does not get upset about the lack of research into drugs against diseases that kill millions of people in the South of the world, why it does not intervene strongly regarding the shortage of drugs for infants and young children who often have to undergo treatment that has been tested and approved only on adults. We know that it is more interested in saving mind, not bodies. Neither do we wonder about those politicians of various colours who use women and their health as sacrificial offerings in the hopes of gaining greater influence on a political scales that is increasingly unbalanced. Let these sterile, even offensive, polemics remain the subject of talk shows and media circuses - as long as they do not impinge on real life, as long as they do not translate into denials of health services to anyone who needs them or into the penalization of health workers whose only interest is health. As long as the men and women of this country respond and keep the freedom they have won.

4 August 2009

Ethics & Gender Policies Commission

Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici

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