The impact of gynecologists’ conscientious objection on abortion access






Tommaso Autorino, Francesco Mattioli, Letizia Mencarini


Although abortion in Italy is free of charge and legal in a broad set of circumstances, 71% of
gynecologists are registered as conscientious objectors, i.e. they are exempted from performing
abortions for reasons of religious or moral beliefs. To assess whether this practice limits abortion
access, we analyze aggregate regional data on abortion and a dataset of over one million clinical
records of single interventions performed between 2002 and 2016. Results, from both cross-
regional panel data and microdata analysis, suggest that conscientious objection hampers abortion
access at the local level, being a significant driver of a woman’s decision of having an
abortion out of the region of residence and leading to longer waiting times to have one. Conscientious
objection appears to have a stronger impact on women living in lower-income regions
or experiencing other forms of economic disadvantage.