Article 10 - Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
Key facts of the case:
The complainants filed an appeal with the Lazio Region al Administrative Court aimed at invalidating the regional Decree dated 22 May 2014 “Network for Women’s, Couples’, and Children’s Health: redefinition and re-organisation of functions and activities of regional family counselling services”. Reimbursement fee for home birth, supplement to Decree of the President Acting as Specially Appointed Commissioner No. U0029 of 1 April 2011. Family counselling services were established by Law No. 405 of 29 July 1975 “Establishment of family counselling services”. The aforementioned decree was supposed to have an impact on the procedures aimed at attending and supporting those women who decide to undergo an abortion procedure, which is regulated by Law No. 194 of 22 May 1978 “Provisions for the social protection of maternity and on voluntary termination of pregnancy”. According to the complainants, the abovementioned decree infringes their freedom of thought, conscience, and religion – envisaged by Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – since it would allegedly force doctors who make a conscientious objection to practising abortion because of their religious belonging to refuse to be hired in family and women’s counselling services or to resign if they are working there. The complainants moreover pointed out the alleged violation of Article 9 of Law No. 194/1978 – which governs conscientious objection – and Articles 2, 19, and 21 of the Italian Constitution.
Outcome of the case:
Based on the abovementioned reasoning, the court decided to reject the complaint, and it confirmed the legitimacy of the decree under examination.
The fourth plea in law, according to which the regional decree would allegedly be in breach of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, cannot be upheld either.
This issue has been at the core of the context in which the European Committee of Social Rights adopted the decision issued on 11 April 2016 in the framework of the European Social Charter of the Council of Europe. The committee upheld the complaint filed in 2013 by an Italian trade union, and it ruled that Article 11 (which enshrines the right to healthcare assistance) jointly with Article E (which sets forth the right to non-discrimination), Article 1, paragraph 2 of Part I (which governs working conditions), and Article 26, paragraph 2 of the charter (which protects dignity at work) had been breached.
Non può essere condiviso neppure il quarto motivo di ricorso, secondo cui il decreto regionale appare contrastare pure con la Carta dei Diritti Fondamentali dell’UE.
La problematica ha costituito il panorama nell’ambito del quale il Comitato europeo dei diritti sociali ha adottato la decisione recentemente resa in data 11 aprile 2016 nell’ambito del sistema della Carta sociale europea del Consiglio di Europa. Il Comitato ha accolto il ricorso proposto da una sigla sindacale italiana nel 2013 ed ha accertato la violazione dell’art. 11 (che protegge il diritto alla salute) letto unitamente all’art. E (che stabilisce il divieto di discriminazione), dell’art. 1 par. 2 primo profilo (che tutela le condizioni di lavoro) e dell’art. 26 par. 2 della Carta (che protegge la dignità sul lavoro).