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Once upon a time, not too long ago, a little less than fifty years ago, there was a civilized and secular society, where after years and years of fighting to defend women’s rights there was finally room for debate on great principles and the state, secular (or at least trying to be), finally allowed freedom of choice on issues such as divorce and abortion. All this is still there. In Italy. At the moment. 

Once upon a time, again not too long ago, still just under fifty years ago, there was a country (Afghanistan) where women, at least in the big cities, went around in miniskirts and were free to walk the streets alone. Then religious fundamentalism prevailed, women are covered by full veils, and that (and other) freedoms are gone.

Once upon a time there was a country (the United States) considered the country of civil liberties, the country that “occupied” another country (Afghanistan) for years even in the name of defending women’s civil rights. In this “civilized,” “democratic,” and “secular” country there was once, always not too long ago, always just under fifty years ago, the right to abortion for women. But today it is no longer there. Because another religious fundamentalism has prevailed.

Well, yes, as of a few weeks ago in the United States the right to abortion is in danger of permanently becoming just a fairy tale to be told. It seems unbelievable just to think about it, but in this country the hands of the clock have been turned back almost fifty years and the right to abortion has been swept away by a Supreme Court ruling, which declared that voluntary termination of pregnancy is a crime “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in medical emergency,” revoking the judgement 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling on which the legalization of abortion in the U.S. has been held up until now. Just a few years ago it was unthinkable, and instead the conservative anti-abortion lobby prevailed after decades of infighting, thanks to three appointments among the Court’s justices sought by former President Trump, who after the judgment apparently declared that the Court followed “God’s will.” …Secular state!

It’s like reading a news story from Lercio … I wake up from the midsummer apathy in which I was wallowing and shudder. 

Would abortion in the U.S. then now be permitted only to save the life of a woman in medical emergency? And exactly in what situations would abortion not be considered a crime according to the U.S. courts? Would the doctor and the judge on duty decide? With what aberrant consequences for women’s lives and health? It is clear that to avoid possible criminal consequences many doctors will not feel like diagnosing life-threatening in “borderline” or doubtful cases. Moreover, life-threatening danger “in medical emergency” means that if you are risking lethal consequences in carrying a pregnancy but are not really about to die, there is no question of terminating the pregnancy. 

The lives and health of women, alive, existing, are being played with in the name of protecting the right to life of biological organisms in formation not yet alive and not yet existing. Pure horror.

Scientific evidence on the beginning of human life has been overwhelmed, the fact that you cannot “kill” someone who has not yet been born is completely nullified. Years of struggles and battles to defend women’s freedom, their right to self-determination, their right to decide their own destiny over something deeply intimate and hugely impacting their physical and mental health have been overwhelmed. 

The thought resurfaces that if a woman decides to have an abortion she does so lightly, as if it were not a painful decision: whatever the reason for terminating the pregnancy, it is a decision that causes conflict, anguish and “grief” to be processed, in any case. But all of this is not taken into consideration; beyond saving herself from the imminent risk of death nothing is granted to the woman, who goes back to being the evil “witch” who wants to kill life. The basic right to safeguard one’s physical as well as mental health is trampled upon, no right not to give birth to a severely malformed child, no right not to bring into the world anyway an unwanted and unloved human being, not to mention the total erasure of the woman’s right to choose to fulfill herself in other ways, to decide whether or not she is ready to face motherhood at that historical moment in her life (or even ever).

But again, most of all and seriously, the judgement dangerously reintroduces the religious thought that life begins at conception, when in fact science has given us evidence that before the 24th week after conception it is not possible to speak of the possibility of life, because it is only after that gestation time that the retina is formed, the biological limit necessary for human life without which there is no possibility of physical survival or the development of human thought. And to impose religious dogmas in a secular state is serious; a secular state must legislate considering facts, not the “beliefs” of some; and the fact, objective and incontrovertible, is that beyond what the embryo or fetus could potentially become, human life begins at birth. There is a before and an after, and this cannot and must never be erased in a secular state. Instead, it has happened. 

Religious fundamentalisms are advancing and secular thinking is getting weaker and weaker. There are no significant mass mobilizations, no spotlight has been turned back on the issue, it has passed and is passing fairly quietly; young people, directly affected, and older people, who have experienced the battles on their own skin, all or almost all distracted … as if it were an (tragic) inescapable situation to which one must adapt with no possibility of transformation. Why? What’s going on? there is no room or time for midsummer apathy… And so, feeling a bit like a sodium particle in a bottle of Lete water I shout “is there anyoneeeee”?

Luigia Lazzaro


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