Small wooden and metal crosses fill lot 108 of the Flaminio cemetery in Rome, some painted white, some askew or fallen to the ground, all bearing female names.
These are not the names of the fetuses buried in the graves, but rather the names of the women who have chosen to have a legal abortion.
The discovery of the named graves last month by a woman who had had an abortion sparked outrage from women’s rights groups and the women involved, who denounced the public exposure of personal medical choices.
“To think that someone has appropriated her body, that a rite has been performed, that she was buried with a cross and my name on it was like reopening a wound,” told AFP Francesca, one of the many women affected.
“I feel betrayed by the institutions.”
The Differenza Donna group (Woman Difference) said it had been contacted by around 100 women who had had abortions in hospitals in the city.
The activists are due to meet the Minister of Health next week and have asked the prosecution to open an investigation.
The Italian privacy watchdog has also opened an investigation into the practice, which so far appears to be a bureaucratic process gone wrong.
The scandal came to light last month after a woman who had an abortion – at a different hospital than the one Francesca used – discovered her name on a cross in the cemetery and posted on Facebook, a post that quickly went viral .
Elisa Ercoli, president of Differenza Donna, described the discovery as the latest slap in the face for women in the predominantly Catholic country, calling it “an ugly and authoritarian act”.
Abortion in the first 90 days of pregnancy has been legal in Italy since 1978, but the law allows conscientious objectors among healthcare professionals.
Seven out of 10 gynecologists in the country refuse to perform the procedure, making it difficult for women to access abortion in some areas.
Ercoli told AFP the group found crosses with the names of women from 2017 to 2020 at the cemetery and learned the practice had been ongoing since at least 2005.
A similar practice was later discovered in a cemetery in the Nordic city of Brescia.
A national law of 1990 requires that fetuses under 20 weeks be cremated by hospitals.
But hospitals can hand over aborted fetuses after 20 weeks to cemetery services for burial even without the consent of family members.
While hospital permits required for the transportation and burial of fetuses may include personal data of women, these records are believed to be kept confidential.
Rome’s municipal waste collection and street cleaning agency AMA, which also manages the capital’s cemeteries, said after the first woman posted on Facebook that the fetus was buried “after specific intervention from the hospital where the intervention took place “.
AMA had “no role in such decisions,” he said.
AMA did not respond to AFP requests for further details.
“Sign of punishment”
A regional adviser has already proposed clearer procedures from hospital to cemetery, accusing legal ambiguity of allowing “discretionary choices”.
Francesca, who declined to give her last name, said she opted to have an abortion last September during the sixth month of pregnancy after learning her child had a severe heart defect.
She said she remembered signing papers given to her at the hospital as her contractions got stronger just before she gave birth, but said she had not read them.
After the abortion, Francesca said she asked three times what would happen to the fetus, without receiving a response, adding that it was not only a shock to discover the grave but also to see the cross, which she said , did not correspond to him. beliefs.
In Italy, children automatically receive their father’s surname at birth.
“But if a woman has an abortion, her first and last name is included,” Francesca noted.
“Finding my name on the cross was a sign of punishment for me.”
(This story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)