FRANCE – Abortion law reform yes, but too limited

A report to the National Assembly on access to abortion in France has highlighted the difficulties women face to access to abortions, including inequalities between women based on their status and the place where they live. There is a lack of services in some local areas as well as a lack of professionals providing abortions. The report makes 25 recommendations, including:

  • maintain the possibility to arrange an abortion via telemedicine up to 7 weeks of pregnancy. This had been allowed during the first lockdown but was withdrawn when the lockdown was relaxed, even though it had represented real progress for women, and no problems with it had been reported.
  • extend the upper time limit for abortion from 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy,
  • authorise the provision of abortion by midwives on a voluntary basis,
  • remove the specific conscience clause on abortion, because there is already a general conscience clause for all doctors for every type of treatment,
  • provide sexuality education in schools, from primary school until the final year, as is supposed to be done by law,
  • provide better information to women, including regular campaigns with information about contraception and abortion.

A bill was tabled by members of the National Assembly, co-signed by more than 40 members from different political parties. It had its first reading and was passed on 8 October. Despite 36 amendments being tabled, the bill as passed contained only two main measures: the extension of the legal time limit from 12 to 14 weeks, and the elimination of the conscience clause specific to abortion. It will go next to the Senate.

For Avortement en Europe: les femme decident, a collective of feminist organisations defending the right to abortion, this was not enough. They published a communique on 8 October. They called for the upper time limit for abortion to be the same as those of the most progressive countries in Europe, they want women to be able to decide which method to use for their abortion and where, they want nurses and midwives to be able to provide first trimester abortions and they want to reopen all the abortion clinics that have been closed in recent years. They provided data that every year, some 5,000 women travel outside of France to have an abortion because of the low time limit of 12 weeks. They also call for abortions to be funded, and for sex education in all schools.

SOURCES: Mouvement Français pour le Planning Familial, e-mail; Liberation, par Le collectif Agros pour une autre PAC, 28 September 2020 ; Marche mondiale des femmes, 7 October 2020. SEE ALSO our previous report, 9 September 2020