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PARIS, April 17, 2015 ( – The National Assembly of France has taken steps to make abortion more easily accessible, like any other “medical” act – complete with abortion quotas. The wide-ranging law also scraps a seven-day waiting period, allows doctors to perform surgical abortions in neighborhood health centers, and gives midwives the right to prescribe and administer medical abortions.

The health and social security law was adopted on its first reading this Tuesday by a vote of 311-241.

The number of legal abortions – or “voluntary pregnancy interruptions,” as they are called – remains stubbornly high at approximately 200,000 each year. Two-thirds of those women were already using some form of contraception when they became pregnant.

While the static number would imply that women already enjoy easy access to abortion, the French media have focused each year on the longer waits for abortion in the summer holiday season. And as the militant abortionists who pressed for the legalization of abortion in 1975 are retiring, fewer doctors are willing to perform abortions.

Each year sees the acting Health Minister – or whatever party – promises to tackle the issue, usually issuing a circular to Regional Health Authorities to assure that abortion is easily and rapidly available at all times and seasons.

The new bill contains an amendment that fixes a minimum “quota” of abortions for each Regional Health Authority, obliging them to define by a yearly contract with each health care facility in their range, the number of abortions it will be required to carry out.

The new legislation began to take shape in February, when the socialist representative and president of the National Assembly’s delegation for women’s rights, Catherine Coutelle, proposed to scrap the week-long “cooling-off” period, as well as the special conscience clause which allows doctors and health professionals to refuse to participate in an abortion. Her objective was to render the “fundamental right” to abortion fully effective.

While the new amendments to the abortion law do not touch the conscience clause, their spirit affirms the nation's commitment to abortion as an absolute right within the 12 first weeks of gestation.

The current “cooling-off period” requires that women have two medical consultations before having an abortion, and the two preliminary check-ups must be separated by at least seven days. If that period would push the woman past the 12-week legal limit, the requirement is shortened to 48 hours.

Under the new law, one medical consultation will suffice and the woman’s decision will be considered to be final.

A few dozen parliamentarians criticized the measure, saying that the decision to have an abortion is “serious” and should be “avoided at all costs.”

But Catherine Coutelle said the idea is to “normalize” abortion, lessening its alleged stigma so that it does not appear as a moral issue, nor indeed different than any medical act.

Many opponents of the seven-day waiting period say it is unnecessary, because the woman is usually two-to-three weeks pregnant before discovering that she is expecting. Asking her to carefully weigh her decision, they said, is a form of “infantilizing” her.

Several spoke of the extra “punishment,” “pain,” “humiliation,” and even “torture” the cooling-off time inflicts on a woman.

The abortion-affirming publication Le Monde quoted dozens of women who spoke of the moral burden of having an abortion – including two women who kept their child thanks to the seven-day wait. Today, they say they are more than grateful the law was in place.

Pro-life politicians agree. “I will have sad thoughts this evening for women who are under pressure to abort, and who are not being given time to turn around,” Xavier Breton, a UMP deputy, said last week as the amendment was adopted by a vote of 40-22.

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Coupled with the new measures that will allow doctors to perform abortions in neighborhood health centers instead of hospitals – all French public hospitals are already obliged to extend this “service” – the abolishing of the seven-day waiting period is expected to cause abortion figures to rise.

But the amended law will also facilitate “chemical” abortions: the RU-486 abortion pill already accounts for 57 percentof all abortions in France but is not legal after five weeks of gestation (or seven weeks of pregnancy). More health professionals will be legally authorized to prescribe and supply what Professor Jérôme Lejeune called “anti-human pesticides.”

At present the abortion pill can be obtained from hospitals, from general practitioners who have a formal agreement with a hospital, from neighborhood health centers and “centers for the protection of maternal and infantile health,” which were originally set to help young mothers care for their babies.

Extending this practice to midwives will dramatically increase the availability of chemical abortion.

The new health law is expected to come into force before summer, after having been examined by the Senate. 


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