Education to responsible motherhood: projects, controversies and compromises of the Italian Law on abortion


  • Francesca Borruso Department of Education, Roma Tre University



Aborto, storia della normativa, educazione alla sessualità, educazione alla maternità responsabile


Induced abortion has invested the life of women in all historical times and cultures, materially affecting the women’s physical and psychological integrity, sexual freedom, and desire for motherhood. During the Twentieth century, legislation approved in the Western World tried, with the help of modern medicine, to frame the phenomenon in a set of rules aimed at protecting women from the barbaric clandestine systems used until a few years ago; at the same time, it laid the foundations for education to contraception methods that are not harmful for women's health and are more effective than abortion.
In Italy – whilst the Rocco Penal Code adopted in the 1930s treated abortion and contraceptive propaganda as «crimes against the race» due to the ideal for which the increase in birth rate would have strengthened the nation of the fascist regime – the fem-inist movements’ battles led to legalization of abortion (Law n. 194 of 1978) and found the rationale for the law in the need to protect female health from clandestine abortion, in education to contraception and, at the same time, in responsible, desired and conscious motherhood. Furthermore, the feminists’ movements made appeal to an idea of motherhood that is centered on the women’s freedom/right to self-determination and to being the sole owner of her own body, for the body is involved in moth-erhood in such a profound and radical way that no third parties can be involved in such a choice.
This contribution is meant to go through the political-cultural debate of those years as well as the educational reasons that inspired the approval of the Law. On the one hand, the application of the Law was affected by many socio-cultural contradictions, fueled both by the possibility of objection of conscience and by recurring anti-abortion campaigns; on the other hand, the Law has offered Italian women not only protection for psycho-physical health, but also the possibility of establishing an idea of moth-erhood that is neither imposed nor inevitable, but is instead chosen, responsible and conscious.