The story of an Italian woman who died after giving premature birth to twins isn't turning out to be a straightforward "complications during childbirth" story, with her family now claiming her doctor refused to perform a life-saving abortion, reports the BBC. On Sept. 29, Valentina Milluzzo was rushed to a hospital on the east coast of Sicily with complications in her 19th week of pregnancy, and she went into premature labor. For more than two weeks she was more or less stable, but things took a turn for the worse on Oct. 15: Her lawyer says one of the fetuses developed severe breathing issues, and as her own condition deteriorated, the doctor taking care of her refused to carry out an abortion she requested, reportedly noting he was a "conscientious objector" and saying, "I will not intervene as long as it's alive," Deutsche Welle reports. Milluzzo miscarried both fetuses, got an infection, and died Oct. 16.
Italian doctors are indeed a conservative lot when it comes to abortions, with government figures showing about 70% of OB-GYNs there balked at terminating pregnancies in 2013; in Sicily, that stat rose to nearly 88%—even though abortion is legal up to 12 weeks, and after that if the life of the mother is in danger or the fetus has severe problems. Doctors are able to register as conscientious objectors to abortions, but sources tell the Ansa news agency this particular doctor wasn't registered. The hospital's argument: Even if it were a conscientious objection (and the hospital says the doctor never claimed that), outside specialists are recruited to carry out abortions—but since Milluzzo miscarried naturally, there was no need for outside help to be brought in. In the meantime, Milluzzo's burial has been put off until the investigation into her death is complete. (This woman live-tweeted her 48-hour trip to get an abortion.)