Neonatal infanticides, for a growing awareness in Europe

Publié le : 25 April 2016

This afternoon, in the European Parliament a conference was organised on “the medical, legal and ethical aspects of neonatal infanticides”. Grégor Puppinck, expert of Gènéthique and Claire de La Hougue, Doctor of Law, from the European Centre for law and justice (ECLJ) have laid out the results of their research on the hidden reality of abortion.


G: Why decide to set up a conference today when the Council of Europe refused to take action after the petition on neonatal infanticides was handed in, in July 2015?

Indeed, one could have thought that after the lack of response to the written question addressed to the deputy Pintado on January 31st 2014, with the lack of consensus from the Council of Ministers, the denial from the European Commissioner for Human rights on November 2nd 2014, who considered that the issue did not lie within his competence, the negative reply from the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the parliamentary Assembly on June 23rd 2016, and then the dismissal, on October 2nd 2015, of the petition against Neonatal infanticides (240 000 signatures- the greatest in the records of the Council of Europe)  by the parliamentary Assembly, which considered the subject to be “too sensitive” and likely to “divide the Assembly”, we would have given up. But this is too important an issue to stop now. The situations we are dealing with here are not exceptional and the taboo that surrounds these children is conducive to abuse because there is no possible control as most of the evidence is provided through testimonies.


Various deputies, members of the Parliamentary Assembly decided to take up the matter and announced that they would reintroduce the subject at the Council of Europe (cf. The Council of Europe rejects the neonatal infanticide petition). The debate is therefore not over. Besides, based on the report we submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly, we published a study “Children, survivors of abortion and infanticides in Europe” in the magazine ‘Revue Générale de Droit Médical’. The fruit of this research was supposed to be publically presented before the members of Parliament in order to raise awareness concerning mistreatment and infanticides of new-born babies. Also, it was important to give the stand to physicians and midwives who had witnessed these neonatal infanticides and refused to remain silent any longer. We hope the members of Parliament will not remain insensitive faced with these testimonies and presentations, and that it will convince them to take action.


G: What is the main message of the conference?

It is the first time that French physicians testify, two of whom will be doing it openly, of the neonatal infanticides that they have witnessed. This is a very meaningful step forward because, until November 2014, it was a reality that was kept hidden inside the hospital walls. The ECLJ has recently been trying to allow them to speak out so that this reality may be made known and that these children’s rights stop being violated. Below are some extracts of their testimonies:


The women had had a vaginal delivery and when the child came out, it was still alive, though it should have been dead. The midwife was taken aback. At that moment, she tries to suffocate the child the best she could, to put her hand on its mouth so that it wouldn’t scream […] [The child] was not granted the right to live” (Testimony from Doctor Chauvet, anaesthetist and intensive care expert-at a maternity in charge of a night shift when the events occurred).


 “A women was in full labour after having asked for an abortion on medical grounds at around 5 months of pregnancy. It was 9 p.m., the intern was about to take over the night shift alone. I was sitting next to [them]. The senior doctor was explaining to the intern how to carry out an abortion on medical grounds. I was on the side, and he said to him: “it may be possible that the child is born alive, so if you see it breathing, press very hard here and wait until there is no more respiratory movement”. He realized I had heard, and he said in an authoritative way: ‘And you have not heard a thing’.” (Testimony from the midwife)


“A midwife also admitted to me having carried out an abortion on medical grounds on a fœtus for which a blood test revealed there was a strong probability it had Down Syndrome […] but the amniocentesis was never carried out. She told me the child was born dead from the abortion and it turned out there was no phenotypical sign of Down Syndrome”. (Testimony from the midwife)


 “The newborn presented the morphotype of a person with Down Syndrome [and] major heart and hepatic problems which threatened [his] life […] in the short term. The mother was not aware that there was any mortal danger. […] The paediatrician turned to the anaesthetist and said: Do you have any more epidural anaesthetic? […] He injected the liquid into the child. […] I understood that they had decided to euthanize the child without telling the parents. […] That is how the child died. I know they never told the parents.” (Testimony of a doctor)


G: What are your hopes for the future?


The ECLI hopes on the one hand that parliamentarians will mobilise and enquire about the situation of these children born alive after their abortion. On the other hand, it hopes that the right to live and to appropriate necessary healthcare, without discrimination founded on the circumstances of birth, may be reaffirmed for all human beings born alive. Finally, the ECLJ expects the Member States to take into account the viability threshold of human foetuses in the laws relative to abortion (i.e. 22 weeks or 500 g[1]).  This would allow these children born alive to be guaranteed their rights, as they also are subject to the human rights. As such, they deserve to be provided with all the comfort and dignity that their condition requires.


[1]  Criteria defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

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