Italy's "Listening Room" Comforts Mothers and Saves Unborn Lives

Steven Mosher
written by Katarina Carranco
September 5, 2023
Reproduced with Permission
Population Research Institute

In May 1978, both houses of the Italian Parliament passed Law 194 legalizing abortion. The margin of victory was so narrow that abortion advocates included language pretending that it really didn't endanger the unborn.

In fact, the law states that "the State... shall protect human life from its inception." But did they really mean it?

At the time, pro-life critics dismissed this language as mere window dressing intended to disarm ignorant voters. And they were right: Italians have used abortion as birth control ever since.

Yet the reality is that most Italians oppose abortion. And Law 194 states that human life must be defended and protected. So, a group of private citizens, working with a hospital in northern Italy, are now putting that principle into practice in a very practical way.

Last month the Sant'Anna Hospital in Turin agreed to establish a "Listening Room." This is a space created to offer pregnant women contemplating abortion immediate support. The goal of the "listeners" who staff it is twofold: First, to help women realize what actually happens in a "termination of pregnancy" and, second, to offer practical support to enable them to successfully carry their child to term.

Several leaders joined to support the "Listening Room" initiative, including the Councillor for Social Policies of the Piedmont Region, the Director General of the Citta della Salute, the Health Director of the Sant'Anna Hospital, and the regional President of the Federation of Movement for Life, an Italian pro-life group. The initiative aims to provide a positive and practical path of support for mother and child both during and after the pregnancy.

With 6,590 births in 2022 alone, Sant'Anna Hospital had more babies born than any other hospital in Italy. Curiously, it also happens TO HOUSE the same facility that carries out the majority of abortions in the region. This combination aptly represents both the symbolic contradiction and the nationwide political battle over abortion in Italy that continues to this day.

The inauguration of the "Listening Room" offers an invaluable example of how pro-life activists can help public institutions comply with the provisions of the law.

Pro-life activists call the "Listening Room" a victory.

Fabio Rampellivice, President of the Chamber and deputy of Brothers of Italy, said "the creation of a listening room for pregnant women in Piedmont constitutes the full application of Law 194 whose title is 'rules for the social protection of maternity and on the voluntary interruption of pregnancy. No one questions the right to abortion, but finally, the first part [Articles 1 & 2] of the law is fully applied, probably never read by those who defended it only to use it as an abortion banner."

Pro-abortion activists like Clare Gribaudo, Vice President of the Democratic Party, are predictably apoplectic. She claims that this initiative is just another "unacceptable" attack by the "anti-abortion" right to prevent women in the public health system from "choosing freely."

But consider this. If abortion is such an obvious choice for women, why would a casual conversation in a comfortable listening room pose any problem at all?

For the first time in a generation, Italy is taking a hard look at its abortion law. The language of Law 194 was an effort to mix oil and water. On the one hand, it references the high ideals of the historically conservative Catholic culture of Italy, while on the other it bows to the feminist maxims of the 20th century.

Article 1 reads: "The State guarantees the right to responsible and planned parenthood, recognizes the social value of motherhood, and shall protect human life from its inception. The voluntary termination of pregnancy as covered by this Law shall not be a means of birth control."

Article 2 entrusts government family counsellors to provide women with "information leading to a choice", while overseeing the laws' "safe and effective implementation", with a goal of assisting them to overcome "the causes that could lead women to choose abortion."

In practice, however, the law has served one side, that of the Marxist and so-called feminist secularists. Pro-life critics were spot on to distrust of Law 194, for behind its pro-life slogans lurked the ugly reality that abortion on demand was now legal in Italy.

Now, forty-plus years later, a modest private attempt to help a public hospital comply with the law has sent the Marxists and feminists into paroxysms of rage.

The implementation of Law 194 proves once more that good intentions, even when faithfully articulated in the title, preamble, or explanatory text of a law, do not impede the law's specific and operative language. The specific and operative language of Law 194 legalizes abortion in Italy up to 90 days of gestation, period. All else, as the lawyers say, is "dicta."

We welcome this new, concrete, and constructive attempt to fully implement Law 194. The establishment of a "Listening Room" is a small but important victory. Hopefully, other hospitals that provide abortion in Italy - and there are many - will follow.

The "Listening Room" in Sant'Anna Hospital provides a model that can and should be implemented all over Italy.