France: 40 recommendations to improve access to abortion

Publié le : 8 November 2013

 The Haut conseil à l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes (HCEfh) (France’s High Council for Gender Equality) has just submitted section 2 of its report comprising 40 recommendations to improve access to abortion to Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the Minister of Women’s Rights. The Minister stressed that "abortion is not something that has to be tolerated but a fundamental right available to all women".

The report comments on the obstacles facing women. Firstly, it refers to the territorial inequality of women, depending on where they live, given the closure over a 10-year period of 130 health establishments practising abortion. "Fewer options" are compounded by "a reduction in the quality of care" or even the "lack of gynaecological vocation" with "37% of gynaecologists retiring over the next 5 years, signalling the departure of ‘generations of physicians widely involved in the practise of abortions’ warned the HCEfh, who fears the absence of ‘a new generation of gynaecologists who would take the helm’". Furthermore, the report points out that, although abortion per se is fully refunded by Social Security in France, additional costs are not. Lastly, the President of the HCEfh, Danielle Bousquet, regrets the fact that the practice of abortion still faces obstacles on "moral grounds, which are no longer relevant". 
The recommendations put forward advocate a new abortion philosophy whereby the procedure is considered to be a "rather commonplace event", which is not a "problem" but a "solution". Along these lines, the report also proposes, amongst other things, to:          
Dispel the notion of "distress" and replace the phrase in the French Public Health Code that says, "pregnant women whose condition places them in a situation of distress can ask a doctor to perform an abortion" by "any woman who does not wish to continue with her pregnancy can ask a doctor for an abortion."    
To remove the current 7-day mandatory reflection period                                   
To abolish the conscience clause for medical staff     
To get rid of health insurance documents relating to abortions in order to guarantee "confidentiality" for those women involved, which goes "against basic patient follow-up", for Bertrand Galichon, President of the Centre catholique des médecins français (Catholic Centre for French Doctors).
To give a ruling on a moratorium regarding the closure of abortion centres  
–  To introduce abortion into medical studies right from the outset.    
A leading phase 1 proposal, which has already been implemented, focused on the creation of a governmental information Internet site intended to counterbalance the "anti-abortion propaganda" "proliferating" the web.
As for the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation, a medical and scientific institution, "this document leads to the trivialisation of this procedure and overlooks significant data".  The Foundation goes on to say in its press release that "abortion is not a medical procedure".     

One French woman out of three will have an abortion at some time in her life. 225,500 abortions were performed in France in 2011.

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