International Planned Parenthood Federation – European Network (IPPF-EN) v. Italy (2014)

In 2012, the International Planned Parenthood Federation – European Network (IPPF-EN) filed a collective complaint to the European Committee of Social Rights claiming that because a high number of health care personnel in Italy refused to provide abortion-related care on the grounds of conscience, the Italian abortion law’s guarantee of women’s right to access abortion procedures was rendered ineffective. IPPF-EN asserted that this situation amounted to a violation of the right to protection of health pursuant to Article 11 of the Revised European Social Charter.

IPPF-EN referred to the official state data which reflected that, nationally, about 70% of gynecologists, 51% of anesthesiologists and 44% of non-medical staff refused to provide abortion-related services in 2009. In some regions these rates were even higher and many hospitals did not provide abortion at all due to the lack of abortion service providers. According to IPPF-EN, the measures that had been taken by the respective authorities in response to the high number of objecting personnel had failed to adequately ensure that women throughout the country could effectively access abortion care in all circumstances permitted under the Italian abortion law.

IPPF-EN further claimed that the failure of the competent authorities to effectively address shortcomings in abortion service provision due to the high number of objecting providers resulted in intersecting forms of discrimination against women based on their geographic location and/or socio-economic status, as well as on grounds of gender and health status, in violation of the Charter’s Article E (prohibition of discrimination).