If the feminist lobbies were been hampered at European level, thanks to the defeat of the Estrela1 report, now France has their pressures in favour of abortion. Deputies will debate on 20th January 2014 a bill for the equality between women and men which contains dimensions to convert abortion into a right.
The bill for equality between women and men
Whereas the Title I of the bill, supported by Najat Vallaud Belkacem, is devoted to equality in professional life, it contains three provisions which aims at including a right to abortion, at extending the offence of obstruction of the VTOP to information, and tend to install a right to have control over one’s body.
A “right” to voluntary termination of pregnancy
The article 5d C of the bill has just dismantled the Veil law by deleting the “distress” condition of the pregnant woman, necessary to perform a VTOP. If this article is adopted, a woman who does not want to continue to be pregnant will be able to terminate it without invoking a state of distress. This change is justified by the fact that: “The VTOP still preserves its status of derogation […]. [This inclusion] affirms the right for women to choose and to have control over their own body”. But this new formula would make a major change in the legal regime.
It deals with a “real upheaval” explains Bertrand Mathieu, a constitutional expert2. Because the VTOP is not a right but a derogation, under condition, from the principle of public policy of protection of the human being from the beginning of its life (article 16 of the civil code), essential condition to the coherence of the French legislation. This will legitimate also the logics of eugenic abortion, as “there will be no more condition to the right of appeal during the first 12 weeks, a period during which we have an increasing number of information on the foetus through prenatal diagnosis” says B. Mathieu. Here it deals with the selection of the unborn child according to her/his genome or of her/his sex, which would increase the eugenics drifts already noted within the framework of medical termination of pregnancy. Implementing a “right to interrupt one’s pregnancy”
under the only will of the woman would create a conflict of laws with the article 16 of the civil code and would be source of legal uncertainty.
The extension of offense of obstruction to information.
The article 5d of the bill foresees that the offence of obstruction3 would be made by the fact “to impede access […] to information” on a VTOP or “by exerting moral and psychological pressures […] to […] women who came […] to inform” on VTOP.
This provision covers the listening platforms and information Website specialized in accompanying women who find it hard to be pregnant, and which will be obliged to inform on VTOP. It is to be feared that this could have an effect to sanction any information which would alert on psychological even physical consequences of the VTOP in woman. The freedom of expression would then be definitively removed on the subject. This analysis is confirmed by the Minister of women’s right which underlined that: “[The government] will not tolerate any obstruction to this essential right [of VTOP]. […] But if the offence of obstruction is efficient to avoid the physical obstructions, it should have been extended to moral and psychological pressures to those who will inform. […] It also deals with imposing sanctions on the fact to impede access to “information” on the VTOP… “4.
The silent implementation of a right to control one’s body
The article 5d B of the bill aims at replacing the title of the 2nd part of the code of public health which deals with abortion, medically assisted procreation (MAP), research on the embryo, antenatal diagnosis… The current title “Health of the family, of the mother and of the child” would become “Reproductive health, woman’s rights and protection of child health”. This change of terminology would have as a consequence to remove the concept of family and to only concentrate on woman’s rights. This implies that the woman could choose when she wants to interrupt her pregnancy or when and how she wants to have a child. This would reinforce the idea of the MAP of convenience, of the vitrification of oocyte of convenience, of the access to these techniques for single or homosexual people. It would deal with an assimilation of a “right to control one’s body” by the French legislation.
But the fear is all the more strong that this supposed “right to control one’s body” could be expressly integrated into the French legislation. Indeed, an amendment presented in Commissions and removed before discussion aimed at integrating as general provisions the following article: “the women’s right to control their own body, to access to contraception, and to ask for a voluntary interruption of pregnancy, is guaranteed by the law”. This addition, which could be again presented in public session from 20th January 2014, aims at implementing new rights, still registered nowhere, nor in the international or European right, nor in the French legislation, which will generate obligations, particularly for health professionals, to guarantee the implementation of these rights.
1. The Estrela report was the fruit of feminist claims and aimed at establishing a right to abortion, a right to control one’s own body, the limitation of the conscientious objection, to open the medically assisted procreation… An alternative resolution, which affirms that these questions do not fall within the competence of the European Union but that of Member States, gained the majority of votes. See press release of the Lejeune Foundation of 10th December 2013; 2. Interview of Bertrand Mathieu Are we going towards a trivialization of abortion? La Croix on 20th December 2013; 3. Article L 2223-2 of the code of public health; 4. (Complete speech: http://femmes.gouv.fr/remise-du-rapport-du-hce-sur-linterruption-volontaire-de-grossesse/#more-8076).