FRANCE – French women’s experiences and opinions with in-country versus cross-border abortion travel: a mixed-methods paper

BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health

by Laura Rahm, Silvia De Zordo, Joanna Mishtal, Giulia Zanini, Camille Garnsey, Derek Clougher, Caitlin Gerdts


Objectives: This is the first study contrasting the experience of women residing in France and travelling for abortion services inside and outside their country of residence. We compare travel reasons and costs as well as our study participants’ opinions of abortion legislation. The article documents legal and procedural barriers related to accessing local and timely abortions and provides policy recommendations to broaden care options.

Methods: The study is based on a mixed-methods research design. Quantitative data were descriptively analysed using Stata and drawn from 100 surveys with in-country abortion seekers collected from 3 Parisian hospitals, and 57 surveys with French residents seeking abortion care in the Netherlands (42), Spain (10) and the UK (5). Qualitative data were thematically analysed using ATLAS.ti and drawn from 36 interviews with French residents (23 in-country abortion seekers and 13 cross-border abortion travellers).

Findings: Gestational age limits were the key reason for cross-border travel, while lack of close-by, timely and good quality abortion care was the main driver for in-country abortion travel. Unlike in-country travellers, cross-border abortion seekers faced significant financial costs and burdens related to such travel. Partners, family members and service providers offered important support structures to both cross-border and in-country travellers.

Conclusions: Legal time limits appeared to be the key driver for abortion-related travel of French residents. Having passed or being at risk of exceeding the gestational age limit caused women to travel outside their country or department of residence for abortion care.