"Do you know what I wanted to do? I wanted to report it. I even went to my lawyer. But you know what? I thank you. Thanks for having made a mistake , doctor!" He pointed to the little boy Giulio. “He is the joy of our family."
These words were addressed to Dr. Massimo Segato - currently Vice President of gynecology at the hospital of Valdagno (Vicenza, Italy) - by a woman who had come to him for an abortion and who, instead, had found herself still pregnant after the operation.
Something had not gone as planned and the baby remained in the mother's womb; Dr. Segato had made a mistake, and Giulio had come into the world.
It was a medical error, he would later explain, but of the most beautiful mistake of his life, with which, involuntarily, he had made a family happier, one who was simply frightened to be overwhelmed by the arrival of a new life.
That story will mark the beginning of Dr. Segato’s internal conflict, whose history as a non-conscientious physician is told in the autobiographical book I did it for women, published by Mondadori in 2017 (136 pages, price € 17.50).
If utilitarianism clashes with the voice of conscience
Dr. Segato began his career as a gynecologist in the early ‘80s, shortly after the passing of the law that made abortion legal in Italy, a law for which he claims to have fought for since he attended university.
The reason that drove him to believe in the goodness of that permissive law? His suffering at thinking about women in crisis who go secretly to incompetent people to have abortions, risking their lives.
Illegal abortions, he claims, lead to the loss of two lives, while aborting in safety guarantees at least the survival of the mother.
A utilitarian reasoning that doesn’t take into account the rights of the unborn, and which Segato justifies in this way: "I am a doctor: I make practical, not philosophical choices. If I can choose to save a life instead of losing two, I prefer to save that life... "
This reasoning, however – that undermines the fundamentals of social justice, since it does not provide for the respect of the rights of all, but tolerates the abuse of some for the protection of others – also wears down the personal conscience of the doctor, who soon finds himself hating his "dirty work."
In particular, the scruples of conscience are exacerbated as a result of that "wrong medical operation," with which it allowed a child, who was meant to be aborted, to be born.
"Barbara and Giulio had moved me deeply, touching nerves that I did not know I had before – he will later come to write - That awake baby, that sly rascal, was inside me and played with my soul. When I decided to stop a pregnancy, Giulio screamed and kicked. "
Yet, despite his conscience loudly telling him to stop, he continues to choose, every time, to uphold that law.
Reluctance toward abortion and inability to defend life: an inconsistency that generates pain
In describing the two areas of his work - births and abortions - in his book, Segato speaks about it in this way: "Abortions here, births there... And in the middle, a door. A gray door, heavy and cold like the operating room I left behind me: gynecological coverings, valves, aspirators, and tubes. Cold environment, cold minds, cold blood. Because abortion is cold. Sad, silent and terribly cold. At least the obstetrics are warm with their mothers and their babies. "
If, then, he is asked why he chose to be an abortion doctor, he defends himself promptly, almost offended by the adjective: "I do not call myself an abortionist. No balanced, serious, sane person can be in favor of abortion. Abortion is a horrible reality. I would be the happiest person in the world if no woman chose to do it anymore... But it's a reality that exists and a law allows you to safely abort. I limit myself to adhering to it, I do it to guarantee a service provided by the State... "
Segato, in his heart, takes such a distance from abortion, that he even comes to claim to be "a robot" while he works, and if you ask him why he does not stop being an accomplice of something he considers an abomination, he answers, trying to convince himself: "I do not consider myself an accomplice. I do not chose personally to abort, in fact, if I can, I always try to change women's minds, I try to convince them that having a child is something wonderful. And many times I get their minds changed. When, however, the woman is determined and does not change her will, I decide to do the surgery so that she does not put herself in danger elsewhere... "
Yet, these justifications are not enough to calm his feelings of guilt: the dictation of the law, the will of women, the awareness that "if he doesn’t do it someone else will" must clash with the voice of all those "children already 'formed' (textual words)” that he would still like to let live and which, instead, causes death with his own hands.
Every surgery tears him apart, leaving doubts within him about the goodness of his work and suffering.
"We need whimpers, not abortions," he says sadly: a resigned sadness, however, that of those who would like things to go differently, but then accepts to be part of the same sick system that he criticizes... It is a sadness contaminated by inconsistency because he would like a different world, but he only helps it stay exactly as it is.
Practicing abortions? It's as bad as killing in war
Often there is an ideological line in favor of abortion. It cries that it is a right, which is a sign of civilization, that it is a step forward for society and is said to be an indication of progress.
It is argued that women must be able to have control of their bodies and that abortion is synonymous with freedom and emancipation.
The doctors who object, then, would only be backward thinking, insensitive, and cynical. They would be blind to the pain of women.
"I understand my fellow objectors - Segato says instead - and I respect them. Nobody likes to procure abortions. It is easy to speak from outside, without entering the operating room, without knowing what is going on inside. My father was called to arms and had to kill people. He was not happy to do it, but he did it to serve the State. I feel like a soldier at the service of the State, but every time I go into the operating room I have to plug my nose."
This comparison, of course, does not hold. When he works, Segato is not forced to choose between his own life and that of the woman, as it goes in war.
He could choose without consequences (death or prison, for example) to always stand in favor of life. He could decide not to take more innocent blood.
Nobody forces him to go to this war or to shoot.
And, he admits, he has always had the temptation to quit.
However, the doubt that he is speaking to him is that choosing to object would have meant admitting that until then he had fought on the wrong side: this, too, would be difficult to bear, since he ended lives with his own hands.
Now more than ever before, after a decades-long career, accepting to have the wrong side of the camp would mean facing all four thousand unborn children he has on his conscience.
And so he continues on the path taken, trying to tell himself what he does and has always done for the women, even if the fear of having fought the wrong side of the battle is always just around the corner:
"How many children like Giulio I had not allowed to be born? How many families had been denied the happiness I had seen in Barbara's eyes? I had touched that happiness with my hand, it was not just words. [...] Barbara had come because she wanted to have an abortion, and she wanted to have an abortion because she felt old and tired. [...] And I had supported her concern, in the name of a law that allowed it. It almost seemed that Giulio had come into the world to prove that we were both wrong. [...] And how many people like him could not prove it? Hundreds? Thousands? "
Dear doctors, you know what abortion really is: do not lower your gaze
If it is true, as Segato says, that we need whimpers and not abortions, it is also true that we need doctors who do not lower their gaze as he does.
Seeing the horror of abortion much more closely, we have a duty to illuminate the collective consciousness.
We need knowledgeable health workers to tell us how choosing life is so much better, like Abby Johnson, director of an abortion clinic who became pro-life activist (read an article we wrote about her story: Director of an abortion clinic becomes pro-life activist: the touching story of Abby ).
We need doctors who awaken the social conscience, which shake us from the slumber of slogans shouted by people who do not touch death like you do.
Dear Dr. Segato, -allow me to address you personally- since you have had the courage to tell the public your inner struggle. You speak as a person who has no hope. You choose an apparent "lesser evil" because you do not have the courage to stand up for Good. In fact, you may see Good as something far away, unattainable. And then, thinking that you cannot reach the Light, you choose the shadow.
And yet, you might be a light to our society, if only you would stop accepting compromises with evil, if you would only raise your head and say, "Enough."
You can do much more than you think to change the culture surrounding abortion. Specially you. You can make a difference.
It is not enough for someone like you saying with regret: "I see a life there. I know there is a life. Regardless of what the law says, regardless of what the woman wants."
We need you to choose life, to choose to fight to defend a clear truth.
Anyone like you owes it first of all to his conscience.
And then, many, thanks to his testimony, might stop adhering to a culture of death. And they could start working with him to make that change that now seems impossible to him.
I am with you…with your good side. And, let me tell you this: I sincerely pray God for you.