A bill of law which extends even more the definition of the crime of obstruction to abortion will soon be voted. In this context Alliance VITA’s coordinator for the listening service crisis center, Caroline Roux, speaks out against a deliberate rejection of the truth and an serious attack on the freedom of expression.

« Mrs. Rossignol, French Minister for Families, Children and Women’s Rights has declared war on Internet sites, which in her opinion, give ‘biased information on the consequences of abortion. Her intention is to extend the definition of obstruction to abortion to include all information given by associations who refuse to regard abortion as a trivial operation and who are willing to consider the dilemma of a woman facing an abortion.

For the past several years, the quality of information for abortion has consistently deteriorated. Many women who wish to avoid an abortion, are inevitably driven to abortion as a foregone conclusion, only because they have not been appropriately attended to or they have not received complete and unbiased information. According to the survey conducted by INED (the French National Institute for Demographic Studies), 72% of women who abort were using contraception when their pregnancy was discovered. Many women are alone and anxious when facing an unplanned pregnancy. Regardless of their age, many women feel rejected or judged when confronted with an unplanned pregnancy. Some women tell us that they reluctantly consider abortion, under pressure from their partner, their families, or their employer, in fear of losing their jobs.

Even if some people are strongly opposed to abortion as a matter of principle, does society still have the right to let women believe that abortion is only an innocuous and trivial procedure?

The government’s web site for abortion shows completely one-sided information. No information whatsoever is given on the rights or financial assistance that could help women who wish to continue with their pregnancy. In a video, a gynecologist asserts that there are “no long-term psychological side-effects for abortions”. Yet the French National Authority for Health rightly pointed out that there was a lack of objective evaluation on post-abortion psychological consequences. If some women profess not feeling any side-effects, other women suffer and sometimes for many years following an abortion, and they are officially denied any communication of the feelings they experience.

Underestimating women’s feelings is equivalent to mistreating them, as demonstrated by a recent study carried out by scientists at INSERM (French Medical Research Institute). This survey underlines the lack of information on the consequences of a medically-induced abortion. After such procedure 27% of women report having “very severe pain” described as 8 on a scale of 10. The authors recommend protocols to improve pain management.

Medically-induced abortions, the most predominately used method in France, are practiced in hospitals prior to 7 weeks of pregnancy, and at home prior to 5 weeks of pregnancy. This forces women to make a rapid decision, without time for reflection, particularly when they are under pressure from their families or suffering domestic violence. Many women experience inner turmoil, completely aware that the life of a human being and their own future is at stake. Yet, the psychological trauma that leads women to abort is largely ignored.

Does Mrs. Rossignol intend to prevent women from expressing the suffering and pressure they experience? The studies published regarding violence perpetrated on women in a domestic setting should be a wake-up call. For 40% of the 201,000 women concerned every year, their partner’s violence began with their first pregnancy. A study on the relationship between abortion and violence reveals that very few doctors routinely ask women requesting an abortion about any violence they may have suffered. Women who confide in our listening service report: “No one asked me anything”. They feel their suffering is completely neglected, whether it is domestic violence, emotional, social or economic pressure.    

This situation can only be exacerbated by the recent legal decision to delete the criterion for distress and the week’s waiting period for reflection. Society is thus approving the legal injunction to decide without any prior reflection. The IFOP survey “The French and Abortion” published September 2016, proved a completely opposite view from that of the government: 72% think that society should do more to help women avoid abortion.

To insist on trivializing abortion, considering it as a procedure without any personal, social, nor ethical impact is a deliberate rejection of the truth. Is it acceptable for 220,000 French women to abort every year, twice the number
of abortions in Germany? The government should urgently reconsider its own abortion information prevention policy. By creating this new crime, it does not only infringe on the freedom of speech for associations and on women’s rights to be correctly informed, but the government is taking the risk to see this measure ultimately backfire.”

Editorial by Caroline Roux, Alliance VITA’s Assistant chief delegate and Director for Crisis Center Listening Service – article published November 30, 2016 in “Atlantico”.