Abortion – A draft Supreme Court decision, which threatens the right to abortion in the United States, has caused an earthquake. Its potential consequences for women’s rights are worrying around the world.
This event reminds us that even in France, basic rights gained after a hard struggle, such as the right to abortion in 1975 with the headscarf law, remain fragile and can be called into question at any time.
If the French context cannot be compared to the situation in the United States, the red lights remain on in France and indicate that the feminist struggle for women to get rid of their bodies is far from over.
“If the right to abortion seems to many to be earned in France, we should not worry about it backlashRepresentative Albany Gilot wrote in a press release the day after the document was leaked from the US Supreme Court, that the social disapproval associated with abortion is still largely maintained by “right to life” activists.
The Real Equality Act 2014 expanded the offense of obstructing an abortion to the fact of preventing or attempting to prevent information about abortion or about these primary acts (and no longer merely resorting to the act itself). However, for several years the political debate over the right to abortion has been marked by the rise in power of conservative anti-abortion or “anti-choice” movements, also present in France.
Time stretched from 12 to 14 weeks, but …
At first glance, it may seem that the right to abortion has been strengthened by the last five-year term of Emmanuel Macron: the Gaillot bill on strengthening the right to abortion was passed on March 3, 2022, after two years of discussions. The time allowed to perform an abortion has been extended from 12 to 14 weeks.
Other measures aimed at improving the effectiveness of the right to abortion were voted on, such as the possibility for midwives to perform instrumental abortions and excessive pressure on the two-day thought period imposed after a psychosocial interview. Measures considered as real progress by associations for the defense of women’s rights.
But we must not forget that this text, welcomed by Health Minister Olivier Veran, was issued after two years of controversy and numerous reservations on the part of the government. Far from supporting this text, Emmanuel Macron himself regularly uses the terms “shock” or “drama,” the dominant discourse among anti-abortionists, to talk about abortion.
‘It’s always a tragedy’
“It’s a right, but it’s always a tragedy for women,” the president argued while presenting his show on March 17. Stigma statements for women, especially those who resorted to 220,000 abortions in France in 2020.
If he vowed once and was re-elected not to undo the Gilot law, it is not of a light of heart. I respect the law of the republic. I issued it, I will not question it, and it will be preserved,” he said.
Without being able to help, he added, “It’s always a tough moment when a woman has to go through this medical option,” an act that “marks a woman for life.”
The hesitant medical profession
While in the UK the legal period for recourse to abortion is up to 24 weeks, in Sweden it is up to 18 weeks, or in Spain 14 weeks, its extension in France has sparked controversy within the medical profession.
On the one hand, the president of the National College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (CNGOF), Israel Nesand, declared in 2021 that this procedure would be “unsustainable for many professionals” due to the growing fetus.
Along the same lines, the National Syndicate of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of France (Syngof) asserted that 30% of gynecologists today refuse to perform late abortions on a regular basis.
On the other hand, feminist associations and actors in the field such as Planned Parenthood supported this extension, asserting that this whole discussion about the deadline was in fact moving away from the heart of the problem: a woman’s right to decide for herself. same.
“Between twelve and fourteen weeks, there is a perceptible technical difficulty,” admitted Chloe Gueschito, who works in family planning and in the abortion center at the University Hospital of Rennes, who contacted him slate In June 2019.
Maintaining the “pronoun clause”
The problem will be more on the psychological side than the technical side. “For professionals who perform abortions, it is not easy to extract a fetus in this term. Fortunately, she emphasized, they know they are not killing lives but saving lives.
Another downside: Gaillot’s law initially planned to remove the “specific conscience clause” that would allow doctors to refuse to perform an abortion. This clause, which relates only to the act of abortion, states that “the physician or midwife shall never be required to perform a voluntary termination of pregnancy, but shall inform the person concerned, without delay, of his refusal and inform him immediately of what has occurred. Names of practitioners or midwives likely to have performed such an abortion. Intervention “.
It is also called the “double conscience clause”, because it is added to the physicians’ general conscience clause, which already indicates that “except in an emergency and where he fails to perform his humanitarian duties, the physician has the right to refuse treatment for professional or personal reasons.”
Its deletion was finally abandoned to allow the text to proceed on its parliamentary path.
Inequality in access to abortion in France
A wake-up point that makes everyone agree: the difficulties and inequality of access to abortion in France. Over the past 10 years, more than 130 abortion centers have closed, a 2013 report by the High Council for Equality (HCE) confirmed.
According to a 2019 study by regional health agencies, the time it takes to receive care for women wanting to have an abortion can vary from three to eleven days depending on the location. On average, it takes 7.4 days to work.
According to the National Advisory Ethics Committee (CCNE), about forty departments have a shortage of gynecologists, resulting in very strong regional disparities, which have been highlighted in all reports over the years. It increased during the health crisis.
‘They had no choice’
According to this survey Mediapart Implemented in 2019, there are other barriers to accessing abortion, unknown, however numerous: abortion “scams”, the imposed method, distance from centers, long waiting periods, lack of respect for privacy …
“After facing many walls, women find themselves outside the legal time limit in France. Some are directed, particularly in distress, into the path of medical termination of pregnancy (IMG) for psychosocial reasons: a whole other ordeal”, deplores Mediapart.
Each year, between 3,000 and 4,000 women will be forced to leave the French legal framework by traveling abroad to have an abortion. The newspaper recalls: “There are still others who give birth under age X. It’s their body, and they had a right to it, but they had no other choice.
In September 2020, a Parliamentary Report on Information on Access to Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy (IVG) specifically recommended a reassessment of the medical activity of abortion, removing the double cause of conscience and no longer “equating” abortion with a separate medical act.
See also on HuffPost: This robot will help a Mexican woman to have an abortion, where it is forbidden