An Italian doctor has postponed his retirement because there is no one else to carry out abortions in his region.
Italy legalised abortion more than 40 years ago but many of the doctors who work for the national health service refuse to perform the procedure.
In Molise, an area of 300,000 people on the east coast, there is only one pro-abortion gynaecologist working for the public sector, and authorities are struggling to recruit a replacement.
Dr Michele Mariano, 69, told the La Repubblica newspaper: "I have been doing this job for 40 years. My hope is that someone will show up to continue my job.”
According to health ministry figures, 70 per cent of public hospital gynaecologists are so-called “conscientious objectors”, who opt out of performing abortions on religious or moral grounds.
The figures are above 80 per cent in Sicily, Apulia and Basilicata in the north, and in the German-speaking province of Bolzano, near Austria.
It reflects the enduring influence of the Catholic Church on Italian society.
But pro-abortion campaigners also say it is also because doctors who declare themselves “conscientious objectors” can have better chances of obtaining top hospital positions.
Dr Mariano said he was just "applying the law" and would postpone his retirement until the end of the year.
He said it was a "small victory" that a second gynaecologist has been assigned to help him part-time.
The authorities in Molise were continuing their search for a full-time replacement.
If one is not found then women would have to go to a private company or move to another region for a termination.
Italian women can terminate their pregnancies within three months, with later-stage abortions permittable in some special cases. Health ministry figures have shown that abortions have fallen significantly from a peak of 234,000 in 1982 to around 76,000 in 2018.
The issue remains highly contentious with liberals calling for looser laws and religious groups seeking restrictions.
In May, a poll by the SWG institute showed that 66 per cent of Italians were happy with the current law, up from 42 per cent in 2000.