40 years after the first law legalizing abortion, it is still widely practiced throughout France
Each year 220,000 women abort their babies in France, which represents 1 out of 5 pregnancies. According to the latest statistics from the National Institute of Demographic Studies, one third of French women will have recourse to an abortion during their lifetime.
Whether abortion is considered as a personal liberty or not – and even if the opposition surrounding this subject is relentless – can our society let us believe that women could consider it as nothing more than an innocuous act?
For 15 years, I’ve accompanied women confronted with this difficult question; I’ve been witness to profound inner questioning that a pending abortion incites. These women know very well: it is the life of a human being as well as their own destiny that is at stake.
In 40 years time, the family planning of births has been imposed as a social norm; any unplanned pregnancy has become more and more difficult to accept.
In France, in spite of one of the highest rates of contraceptive use in the world, including youth, almost ¾ of women opting for abortion were on birth control when they became pregnant. Forgetting to take their birth control pills, misusing condoms, and becoming pregnant while using an IUD (intra-uterine device): a report of the IGAS (lnspection Générale des Affaires Sociales) published in 2010 concluded that “a complete control of fertility is illusory”. But does this justify that abortion be proffered as the only solution? When a “surprise” pregnancy arrives, questions are jostled around in panic, and often in solitude. Many women, whether young or not, feel judged and rejected when they reveal that they are pregnant without having planned to be. The enormous pressure that some women experience, especially from the man’s side, should be taken into account more often. Is it possible to welcome a child born of a non-planned pregnancy? Without the support of their “companion” and of their close friends, these women too often accept an abortion as an inevitable fatality, in spite of their heart-felt wishes.
With the increased use of medication abortions, which can be performed before 7 weeks of pregnancy at the hospital, or before 5 weeks of pregnancy at home, women often have little time to decide, precisely at a time when they experience both inner and exterior conflicts.
A real effort to prevent abortion is nowadays more and more abandoned by public services.
Women find themselves too often confronted with technical information about abortion without receiving help, which might permit them to continue their pregnancy serenely.
The law passed on July 4, 2001 ended the presentation of aid and protection assured to pregnant women in the information guide given to those seeking possibilities concerning abortion.
It’s neither by proclaiming the insignificance of such an act, nor by imposing silence about abortion, that we can respond to the needs of women.
If some women say that they do not feel anything or have no regrets, why deny the painful aspect of the event that others have experienced? This denial constitutes a form of psychological violence. Women need to be liberated by being able to speak freely, in an environment of respect about what they feel. However, many have difficulty in finding the listening accompaniment, help, and consolation that they need.
« How old would he be now? » is a question that women admit to asking themselves throughout their life following an abortion. Some feel a painful emptiness due to the absence of the ‘baby’, which they regret. By refusing to acknowledge that certain women have been subject to outside social pressure, society thereby locks them up with their inner pain and guilt feelings. Occasionally, men also appeal to us when they realize the pain of their companion, which they did not suspect, or, on the contrary, when they, themselves experience pain for having not been consulted.
For the Chief Health Authorities, : « Abortion often remains a difficult event to experience from the psychological perspective. This dimension needs to be objectively and scientifically clarified. » And yet, since this report, no public research study has been carried out.
Our country needs a wide-open debate on true ways to prevent abortion. This will demand courage to uncover the truth on this act, its’ reality and its’ repercussions.
Caroline Roux, assistant general delegate and coordinator of help-line services at Alliance Vita. sited in the IGAS report on the prevention of non-desired pregnancies (2010)