On 12 March 2015, “Toute une histoire” (the Full Story), a programme broadcast on France 2, broached the difficult subject of abortion “from a man’s perspective“. “My wife decided to have an abortion“. A “rather taboo subject in the end“, as presenter, Sophie Davant, realised as the programme aired. Therefore, after two publicity breaks, the replay available on the “Toute une histoire” website did not correspond to the initial broadcast. If you inadvertently come across the link to the broadcast, you will discover that you cannot watch it because of the author’s rights. Could the broadcast, which can still be seen in Switzerland by the way, have been deliberately censored?
What did this programme contain? Gènéthique has been able to watch it and can give you the main gist. Three men, Patrice, Antoine who, to protect the people mentioned in his story has chosen to remain anonymous, and Michel, each recount how they coped with their partner’s decision to have an abortion, and the consequences of this event on their own lives because “Abortion does not just affect women“.
Let’s focus on Patrice, who still carries the ultrasound scan photo of the aborted baby: “I saw the baby’s heart beating and it moved me“. Patrice is suffering from depression. Today, he feels “destroyed. I can’t get back on track. Because it is a life after all. Nevertheless, it’s a terrifying experience“. Frédérique Farrigou, counselling psychologist, who comments throughout the programme, explains that, without a shadow of a doubt, everything has moved too quickly. Patrice only knew his partner for three weeks and their desire to have a child was not on the same level of intensity… but it was an entirely different story with Michel: “My wife and I went back to Family Planning a few years later to explain how everything went wrong after the abortion. The counsellor politely explained that we had probably been in a bad situation. We were embarrassed because no-one bothered to find out if we were in a bad situation before, only afterwards. (…) I would like to tell you that I’m grieving with you. And that I would have loved to have known this baby. Because I believe that Patrice is talking to us about the child he did not have. Even if the situation is bad, even if he had an immature attitude or anything else we could reproach him for, I personally would have loved to have known this child. And I am also missing him/her”
Antoine, in turn, told us that he had fallen head over heels in love with a girl who “barely came up to his shoulders“. He was 16 years old and had “just gone back to school after the summer holidays“. He had lived with his girlfriend for 3 years when: “One day, she started to complain about the pill because it was upsetting her. She was experiencing side effects and therefore decided to opt for the rhythm method“. Antoine was not concerned: “Things were very straightforward for me at that time. We were told by everyone that an embryo was nothing, so, off you go, and get rid of it. We went into a room, we came out of the room – the deed was done. To be honest, I thought that the anaesthetic was the main disadvantage with this procedure. There was a bit of blood, that’s all, but it was like an operation..” He did not for one minute imagine the consequences of this act. Also, when his partner became pregnant, an abortion was inevitable. However, when he found her at the clinic: “She was worried. She wasn’t well. I felt that she reproached me for something. It wasn’t as I had planned. It wasn’t a trivial matter. “. They split up one year later. Antoine is getting his life back on track: “The only thing I did not realise was that I would never fall in love again. I will always love her. Totally“.
He will need time to understand what has happened: “When I had my children, I went on a journey: there he/she is, in the womb, tiny, with a beating heart… We realise that a child isn’t just about being in a cradle“, and now to this painful experience: “One day, I thought that if this abortion had not been carried out, I would have a 20 year-old son or daughter. Who would be there. But isn’t there. Today, my child would have been thirty years old. And she’s not here with us. Why? Why did we end her life?”
Never aggressive, as if providing evidence, he shows his feelings: “We know nothing of sexuality. Because sex education is all about what happens in bed, condoms, contraception, STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). There we are. You’ve explained it all in 5 minutes. But that’s not sexuality. We should find out about sexuality from a young age. All well and good – not what happens in bed, obviously. But there are young boys and young girls – we react differently. We are not the same. We have mutual respect but communicate differently. (…) And then as we grow up, we need more explanations. That’s it – how to build your life. If you are going to live with a woman, you will have a family. You must have this concept of commitment, loyalty, love and responsibility… And know everything to expect from being in a partnership and having a family life. The man’s role, the woman’s role..…’” and he went on: “In a loving relationship, everything goes too quickly. Intercourse happens too quickly. Because, in reality, it’s a bit like putting the cart before the horse. When you have intercourse, there are somethings you cannot redo. You cannot go back. You have to be aware of that… “
When it was Michel’s turn, he told us about the interference of good parents who were “keen for us to have a relationship. (…) The mother in particular wanted her to have a broad sexual experience“, but, at the same time, did not want her daughter to have a child before completing her studies. When the baby was on the way, Michel turned to his own mother: “Above all, don’t gloss it up – it’s all about women. Let her make her own choice and accept the choice she makes“. And Michel supported the woman who became his wife: “No-one bothered to find out if she was under pressure. No-one asked my opinion. The doctors were particularly disrespectful. There was one who did not see me at all and another who told me it was nothing to do with me. I felt completely powerless“. And he told us: “I remember it as a door closing and my partner standing alone behind the door. I am feeling very guilty at the thought but in front of this door I should have said: Stop, stop! Let’s stop it there!” But I wasn’t capable of doing that“. He went to see his partner after the abortion: “She was curled up on her hospital bed. She had adopted the foetal position. She looked incredibly small and completely abandoned. I could smell formaldehyde. I was having an out of body experience. I didn’t understand what I was doing there. I did not know why our love had brought us to such a sordid situation. And I felt an emotion I had never experienced before: one of repulsion”.
Their relationship was in trouble for a while but then they found each other again and decided to get married. They distanced themselves from their families. A new baby was on the way and his wife had still not completed her studies. She put her studies on hold and kept the child: “There were major health complications surrounding the birth of our first daughter, born after the abortion. I thought I was going to lose her. And I left this clinic in the same state as after the abortion. I remember saying to myself, what’s happening? Why didn’t someone tell us there were similar risks?” Because, as far as the gynaecologist was concerned, this was undoubtedly one of the consequences of ‘the abortion. Once again, I found myself powerless and in a state of despair. It reoccurred with the second birth. And the diagnosis was very poor for the third. We became immersed in the same story yet again. This has caused health problems for my wife“. They have 5 children: “We were given the true gift of life: on the birth of the third child, the placenta came out on its own, much to the surprise of the entire medical team“.
A rare broadcast that we would have loved to watch over again.