The future health law was voted on April 14, 2015 by the National Assembly and the 57 articles will be presented to the Senate. But few have realized the implications concerning abortion. Tugdual Derville, Alliance Vita’s General Delegate clarifies this point.

What’s your analysis of the Health law measures concerning abortion?

Tugdual Derville: Generally speaking, the government left the most ideological parliamentary members of its’ majority party unrestricted, as if they were sheltered by the more prominent debate surrounding direct payment of health fees by national health insurance. Under Catherine Coutelle’s leverage, as president of the National Assembly delegation for women’s rights, the previous delay for reflection of one week before an abortion has thus been eliminated.

The measure was officially voted against the government’s counsel, but without Marisol Touraine demonstrating any real resistance. However, the executive was supporting additional measures which have been voted: the possibility of having an abortion performed in health centers and the unconditional access for minors to the alleged “emergency contraception”. Allow me to recall that the partially abortive characteristic of the widely used day-after pills remains largely disguised. A minor needs his parents’ signature to take an aspirin, but can obtain an early abortion in complete anonymity. Under these conditions, it’s not easy to ask parents to exercise their responsibility; and if their daughter breaks down psychically or mentally, they are the first to be confronted, without knowing the reason for her distress.

What is the objective of these changes?

All of the measures are obstinately lined up to “facilitate abortion” more and more, trying to gradually eliminate all boundaries, going so far as to vote an amendment which defines, for health centers, a ‘quota’ of abortions to be performed per year. Family Planning succeeds in putting through the same victimization argument for over 40 years, in contradiction to statistics: access to abortion would be “an obstacle course for women.” Many being “still condemned to go abroad”! The only change: Family Planning doesn’t envisage that contraception makes abortion “an exception” and henceforth refuses the idea of reducing the number of abortions. They affirm “Women abort; don’t make a tragedy out of it.” It’s true that almost 4 out of 10 French women of child-bearing age have had recourse at least once to a voluntary interruption of pregnancy.

The so-called ‘Veil law’ is virtually considered as sacred, either by the history books or by the political class, thus infringing on secularity. It’s the archetypical icon of our democracy that gives homage to an act deprived of public honor, a strange conclusion of the republican slogan applied to women. But the legal procedure in vigor today doesn’t have much to do with that which was promised to be “a balanced equilibrium” in 1975. By successive slidings, abortion has become the uncontestable norm.

And what about the mid-wives?

If the text is voted in its’ actual state, mid-wives will soon be up to deliver pills for medication abortion. It’s a complete change of paradigm, because up until now, the essence of the profession has been to take care of the pregnant woman and her child up until birth. In years past, the constitutional Counsel had invalidated the same reform voted by the preceding majority, for reasons due to its form.

Where can this lead us, using this sort of thinking?

It’s a political scheme of taking baby steps, always going as far possible, to “advance” without shocking the public. The Health Minister admitted having abdicated her support for shortening the legal delay to 48 hours for a convoluted reason: to not give the impression of benefitting from the January 11th atmosphere to push forward some policies that are “difficult for some to accept”!

Regarding possible forth-coming aggravations, “it’s not up to me to give any new ideas to the liberal lobby.” The example of certain laws which are even more transgressive than ours, (British, American…) provide a sufficient source of inspiration. What is most sad, it is that this libertarian thirst is all the more unquenchable than it doesn’t produce any relief… Thus it isb destined for failure. An irremediable act which finalizes the destiny of a human being by provoking his premature death can be hidden under all sorts of justifications; it will never be a source of inner peace or true freedom for women. France will only be liberated from such a denial by facing the true facts…

How can Alliance VITA contribute?

By giving women the liberty of speech, and by never judging them. The key issue for us, who have accompanied more than 10, 000 women concerned by the subject of abortion, is that awareness be not a source of despair but a true consolation.

What concerns us, is the inevitability that weighs on numerous women who find themselves faced with unplanned pregnancies. And also on those women who have already experienced abortion. More and more often we here pregnant women tell us “I’m ashamed not to know what I should decide!” and many of those who have experienced an abortion confide: “I’m ashamed of suffering!” There’s a pressure for pretending to feel well that weighs on them. “Just abort and shut up” is the essence of the public’s message.

By refusing them the right to hesitate, we deny that there are emotional complexities linked to pregnancy; and minimize the natural ambivalence faced with one of life’s essential upheavals that we ordinarily recognize for other ordinary circumstances…Ultimately, by denying women’s suffering, we condemn them to suffer in silence. This is very brutal. To appear emancipated, women must renounce their identity, in the area which is the most precisely feminine: maternity. And one speaks about women’s liberation!

What can we expect from an alternate policy on this subject?

Courage, but above all political lucidity… One still needs a certain amount of courage to confront the still popular lobbyists who monopolize the media “in favor of the women’s movement” and paralyze the ruling party.

It would suffice for politicians with just a bit of lucidity, to understand that they can reach French men and especially French women by employing a different political discourse. As verified by several public questionnaires, a majority of French women expect public authorities to propose other alternatives to help them avoid abortion. As I said to Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet : her analysis of the subject appears indigent, as if in such a domain, we should try to force private convictions to co-exist with opposing public ones. As if, somehow, the debate surrounding abortion were only confined to the realm of religion. Would one suggest the same thoughts about the death penalty? Whatever opinion one might have about the Simon Veil’s intentions, one should be honest enough to recognize that the breach opened by this law has proved unmanageable: the argument using exceptions for cases of distress was just a decoy. To date, the right-wing governments – for example, Roselyne Bachelot during the preceding 5-year term – have become largely subservient to Family Planning’s doctrine, whereas the latter systematically calls to vote for left-wing MP’s…

With Alliance VITA we provide an important social service aimed at helping pregnant women and those who need to be heard and accompanied because of an abortion that troubles them. Our guide “I’m pregnant’ is a public service mission that we accomplish in place of the successive governments that have abandoned this aid.

We continue to remain hopeful of convincing politicians to finally provide a real abortion prevention policy. This requires liberation from mainstream conformist thinking, which acts a straight-jacket. Looking from the standpoint of the current government, we are still far away. On the contrary it goes on building up. The legalization – thankfully controversial -, for ‘drug consumption rooms’ is the result of the same libertarian thinking.

Interview by Frédéric Aimard