Covid-19 in France: Abuse of Power for Drug-induced Abortions at Home

On May 22, the French State Council voted to prolong the recent decree, which extends access to drug-induced abortions at home. The April 14, 2020 decree was originally enacted as part of the national emergency health measures taken to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Alliance VITA filed a suspensive proceeding to denounce the French Health Minister for abuse of power and for putting women’s health at risk. The investigation for abuse of power is currently ongoing, as a separate issue.

Indeed, on the pretext of a national health emergency, the Health Minister extended the criteria for allowing drug-induced abortions at home, implementing measures, which involve serious risks for women:

  • medical consultations to request an abortion can be carried out by video, thus leaving the women more isolated, which can be especially difficult during the confinement period;
  • deadlines for having a drug-induced abortion at home are extended from 5 to 7 weeks of pregnancy, although it is well-known that abortions carried out at later gestational ages cause more severe pain, with an increased risk for heavier bleeding and hemorrhaging;
  • drug protocols for abortions over 5 weeks of pregnancy have been modified, specifically by doubling the usual recommended dose of misoprostol although such doses are explicitly contraindicated in the 2018 guidelines for good clinical practice;
  • women can receive abortion pills directly from the pharmacists, who find themselves on the front line, without any specific training, especially unprepared for dealing with young minors.

Caroline Roux, Alliance VITA’s Assistant General Delegate and Coordinator of Listening Services asserts:

How dare we ask women to have their prescriptions filled for abortive drugs by pharmacists? Such dispositions suggest that the decision to carry out an abortion is innocuous, and disregard the violence of an act, in which life is at stake. Besides, women are put at a disproportionate risk. The Covid-19 crisis must not be used as a pretext to compromise women’s health and safety. Promoting drug-induced abortion during confinement is violent because women are even more isolated and alone. The French Health Minister has implemented these measures based on the downward trend in abortion numbers, which has not yet been confirmed by any quantitative analysis, and without considering what women might be going through. Indeed, the pandemic and its hazards may change one’s vision on unplanned pregnancies. The real health emergency is for pregnant women to receive the support and safety they need, and have the necessary assistance should problems arise. It is also essential to protect women from all kinds of violence, including the pressure, either from men or from near relatives, to have them abort against their will.

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