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Church & State: together against the freedom of women

category italy / switzerland | gender | opinion / analysis author Friday February 25, 2005 23:29author by nestor - FdCAauthor email internazionale at fdca dot it Report this post to the editors

Statement by the Council of Delegates of the Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici regarding the forthcoming referendum to repeal section of a new law on Medically Assisted Procreation

Church & State
together against the freedom of women

The whole affair of the Referendum for the partial repeal of Law No.40/2004 regarding Medically Assisted Procreation (MAP) has been a disaster from the very start. Now, Italy's constitutional court has decided, as we feared, that Italians are not to be given the chance to totally repeal this prohibitionist, fundamentalist law which is aimed at stopping women from making decisions about their own bodies and at setting limits to the principle of female self-determination.

Those who are happy now that an end has come to the (non-existent) reproductive "Far West" where the unregulated female desire for maternity caused scandal, and who prefer a bad law to no law at all, do not openly say that what they actually want - and which is in effect introduced by this law - is for women to be firmly placed back into a minority position with strict controls over them. Neither do they say that the important thing is the principles that are enshrined in this law, not their actual application - something which is difficult anyway in a Europe without borders where economic possibilities alone make the difference between who will and who won't be affected by this new freedom-killing Italian law.

The first question to be decided by the referendum, and which was presented by only 12 female parliamentarians, seeks the repeal of the article which sets the rights of the woman against the rights of the embryo. A "Yes" vote on this point would avoid a serious conflict between women's rights and the rights of unborn children, blocking what is clearly an attempt at cancelling the effects of Law No.194 [1].

A "Yes" vote for the three other questions to be decided by the referendum, which are supported by the moderate left and the secular elements of the governing coalition together with the medical lobby and pro-genetic research associations, would serve to mitigate the worst effects of this monstrous law, effects which make it truly unmanageable and indigestible.

But rather than aiming at the protection of the freedom of choice and the protection of women's health, they seem mostly designed to protect the medical sector and the lobby of pharmacological research by companies who offer commercial health services.

The request for the protection of the physical and mental health of women, who can choose to obtain access to fertility treatment, does not hide the perception that we are faced with hideous blackmail - that of giving up the rights of all women in order to protect the health of some.

We believe, in fact, that even if there is a "Yes" vote on the four questions in the referendum, this law will continue to place limits on personal freedom. By denying access to fertility treatment by anyone other than established heterosexual couples, the law continues to violate the right to health. The World Health Organization has defined infertility as an illness, but this law contradicts this definition in no uncertain terms and will only result in the impossibility of self-determination by denying the freedom for all women, irrespective of their sexual orientation or family status, to benefit from fertility treatment. Furthermore, the law provides for special records to be kept of all those who are born thanks to this form of treatment, a provision which only serves to provide further serious cause for concern.

The establishment of regulations regarding MAP and genetic research cannot be done through a law imposed by the State, a law which is the fruit of compromises hatched out by priests and doctors. Regulation must be determined on the basis of shared practices developed by those centres which carry out fertility treatment and must guarantee access to all and be secular in its outlook. It must respect the reproductive choices, individual or joint, of every one of us.

As experience in Italy with regard to abortion shows, rules imposed by laws from above with which many disagree are frequently disregarded, even at a heavy personal price, by individuals who rightly believe they should have the power to decide for themselves and for their own lives. While it may be true that, as at other moments in the recent past, women have not been able to express their clear opposition, it by no means follows that they are unaware of the dangers that this law presents, even if its worst aspects are softened somewhat by the referendum.

Therefore, while our immediate action can only be to respond positively to the referendum, in full awareness of the game being played by the institutional politicians with our freedom, we must remember that the final word on the matter must come from agreement from the grassroots, which must question the need for a law which claims to decide our lives for us and which puts a limit on our rights, first and foremost the rights of equality and of the health of women and men.

Council of Delegates
Florence, 29th January 2005

1. Law No.194 is the law which currently regulates the right to abortion. Law No.40, by introducing the concept of the rights of the embryo is, in effect, the first step towards making abortion a crime of homicide.

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