Unauthorised burials of aborted fetuses shed light on stigma women face, as well as barriers to reproductive rights.
“Finding myself crucified has been the last step of the torture a woman had to endure to have a therapeutical abortion in Rome,” says Francesca.
In 2019, Francesca was six months pregnant and needed an abortion for medical reasons – because the baby she was carrying had a malformed aorta.
First, the Italian pro-abortion rights activist had to scour Rome to find one of only five doctors in the city who perform abortions.
During the procedure, she was left in active labour without any anaesthesia. Afterwards, clinic staff refused to tell her what happened to the aborted fetus.
It was only a year later that she found a cemetery where a cross, with her name on it. The fetus had been taken from the clinic by an anti-abortion rights group, one of several that have struck deals with some abortion clinics whereby they collect the aborted fetuses and give them Christian burials.
The groups mark the spot with a cross emblazoned with the mother’s name, an attempt to shame the women who had to make the decision to terminate their pregnancies.
According to a 1990 Italian law, abortions are only permitted between the 3rd and 6th month of pregnancy, and only if the mother’s physical or psychological health is at risk. The law says nothing about the fetus’s health.
A film by: Flavia Cappellini
Editor: Alaa Alhussan &Flavia Cappellini
Drone: Fabio Forcellino
Driver: Adriano Manna
Producer: Alaa Alhussan
Special thanks to journalist Gabriele Barbati and filmmaker Daniele Napolitano.
Archive footage courtesy of ilRiformista, with thanks to Davide Nunziante, Chiara Viti and Giacomo Andreol.