A woman writes: “Dear lawyer, I would like to know if one of those crosses also bears my name.” And another: “I don’t have the strength to go and check, can you help me?” And another one: “I’m asking myself if my name might also appear on those crosses.” And another: “I had a therapeutic abortion. All this has reopened deep wounds inside me. What happened to the remains of the fetus?”
Hundreds of emails—frightened, full of grief. Hundreds of women who in 24 hours wrote from all over Italy to the lawyer Cathy La Torre from Bologna, who has set up an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) to defend the victims of what happened in Rome, where many dozens of fetuses were buried with the women’s names on the crosses without their knowledge.
As revealed by the British newspaper Independent, such a case had already happened in 2013 in Turin, when a woman suddenly discovered (after a phone call from the cemetery in which she was asked for instructions for the exhumation), years after the fact, that her fetus had been buried without her knowledge after the abortion by a Catholic association, Difendere la vita con Maria (“Defend life with Mary”), which has been operating throughout Italy for almost twenty years. La Torre has decided to send to every woman who contacts her a model request for access to the archive of their local municipality and another to report privacy violations to the Privacy Guarantor, which has already opened an investigation. “This practice is reminiscent of the scarlet letter,” she says.
In Rome, in just a few hours, the “Differenza Donna” NGO gathered the contacts of 30 women who had discovered their names on the graves of the Flaminio cemetery and decided to file a collective legal action. This is also what Francesca wants, one of the women who on Wednesday found her name on one of those crosses: “another very deep stab to the heart, endless pain and blinding rage,” she wrote on Facebook. She remembers she asked the hospital “on three occasions what happened to the fetus,” but never received any answer.
“Next week, we will all get together,” explains President Elisa Ercoli. “We will ask for an audience at the Minister of Health Speranza and the sole administrator of AMA [the municipal authority in charge of cemeteries], Stefano Zaghis,” who has been silent on the matter so far, just like Mayor Virginia Raggi. Representing the City of Rome, Delegate for Gender Policy Lorenza Fruci spoke yesterday on TG3: “It was unacceptable what happened with the names on the graves, a humiliating and intolerable practice that violates the right of these women to privacy.”
However, the M5S junta has not said up to this point whether they have intervened to ask to remove the names from the gravestones and to stop this practice in Roman cemeteries. The radical Deputy Riccardo Magi urged Raggi to take action: “The City Council of Rome must quickly approve an amendment to the regulations that would put the respect for privacy and the choice of the woman at the forefront and provide for the immediate removal of all names from the crosses.”
“In this terrible story, the passing of responsibility back and forth between AMA and the San Camillo hospital is disturbing and irresponsible,” accused the women’s coordinating committee of ANPI in Rome. “The Privacy Guarantor must shed full light on what happened, and the government must guarantee full respect for Law 194,” urged the CGIL union’s Lazio branch.
“We must push the government to revise the mortuary police regulations dating from 1990. We, as a region, can consider passing either an implementing regulation or an even stricter regional law to eliminate the discretion that led to the case of the Flaminio cemetery,” says the leader of the Zingaretti List for the region, Marta Bonafoni. “I have already proposed to the majority to go back through all the steps taken, from the cemetery upwards: the AMA, Municipality, hospital, local health authority, region, national regulations, national law. We will discover that there are discretionary choices and an ambiguity that is the result of the ambiguity of the law, an ambiguity that draws its life from ideology.”
Even the leader of Family Day, the anti-abortion activist Massimo Gandolfini, denounced this practice: “Writing the name and surname of the mother on the grave is a wrongheaded and mindless procedure.”
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