Is Covid a Pretext for Extending Controversial Home Abortions in France?

Once again using the Covid national health crisis as a pretext, the French Minister of Health and Solidarity has issued a new decree on November 7th 2020, to allow drug-induced abortions at home until 7 weeks of pregnancy (i.e. 9 weeks of amenorrhea) instead of 5 weeks in the current law.

A decree was issued to declare a national public health state of emergency from October 17, 2020 and a law was passed on November 7th to extend the state of emergency until February 16, 2021. This law also contains various other measures to deal with the Covid crisis.

The law has yet to be enacted since on the same day, at least sixty senators and sixty deputies requested for it to be referred to the Constitutional Council.

The latest decree voted on November 7th is a repeat edition of the previous one, enacted on April 14th, 2020 under pressure from abortion activists.

Whereas French law originally permitted drug-induced abortions to be carried out at home up to 5 weeks of pregnancy, and in hospital up to 7 weeks, for security reasons, the new “emergency” decree allows a derogation for drug-induced home abortions up to 7 weeks of pregnancy. The High Authority of Health, on the request of the National Health Ministry, has issued an instruction, on April 9th 2020, to insist on the fact that a specific protocol was necessary for drug induced abortions beyond 6 weeks of pregnancy (8 weeks of amenorrhea), which means, that the usual recommended doses of misoprostol should be doubled, even though such high doses are not recommanded and have not received marketing authorization.

The protocol also stipulates that the woman must not be farther than one hour’s distance from the referring medical facility in case of complications, such as hemorrhage (5% risk according to the HAS instructions). Because abortions carried out at a later gestational stage often cause more severe pain, the protocol also advised for someone to be present with the woman, although this cannot be verified.

Last April, several associations, including Alliance VITA, filed a suspensive proceeding (which has yet to be judged on its merits) charging the Health Minister with abuse of power and with putting women’s health at risk.

Beyond the central issue of endangering women’s health, other issues still need to be addressed. Again, the decree specifies that women requesting an abortion can now fulfill the compulsory medical consultation by video, whithout explaining how, in such case, it is possible for women to receive the support and listening services provided for by the law.

 

Furthermore, in the current procedure, the abortive drugs can only be dispensed by doctors or midwives, whereas in the new decree, it will be possible, by derogation, for pharmacists to deliver abortive drugs directly to the women.

Paradoxically, after by-passing the in-person medical appointment respecting stringent sanitary measures, women are being sent out to buy their prescriptions in a pharmacy, which is a more contagious place.

Indeed, as the authorities did in April, without ever evaluating the impact of such measures, they have now reinstated the decree, all the while neglecting to analyze any data or feedback since the decree was first enacted.

It is surprising to continually advocate these subjective decrees because:

  • since the first lockdown, precautionary measures with masks and social distancing have been implemented throughout the country,
  • public authorities have also showed a clear incentive to continue caring for all non-Covid patients,
  • and no other standards of care have been downgraded by governmental decrees for other medical conditions.

In view of these idiosyncrasies and because women’s health and safety continues to be jeopardized, Alliance VITA is filing a new suspension for abuse of power.

 

 

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