“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
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
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
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?
Dear doctors, you know what abortion really is: do not lower your
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,
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.