France Abortion Reform Bill: MP’s Cancel the Public Debate Planned on Feb 18th

The Socialist Group has given up the idea of holding an open public debate on the latest bill to extend abortion rights. They claim that the very large number of amendments proposed for this bill would have prevented them from examining the bill, which goes with another four bills, within their party’s allotted timeframe.

Tabled by Mrs. Albane Gaillot, (MP,Val de Marne), and scheduled under the “Ecologie Démocratie Solidarité” party’s agenda, the law proposition was examined and adopted at first reading in the National Assembly last October.

Since then, the political group composed of a few liberal activists from President Macron’s party “LREM” (“La République en Marche”) split up, due to an insufficient number of MP’s.  Under pressure from Senator Laurence Rossignol, the Socialist group agreed to take on the bill after the Senate’s reading last January, in order to move forward on this bill. Since the bill was rejected by the Social Affairs Committee, the Senate decided to cancel the public debate, judging it irrelevant after the “LR” (Les Républicains) group tabled a preliminary question.

 

A Highly Criticized Bill

Improbably claiming that it is becoming increasingly difficult to have an abortion nowadays, the bill proposes to extend the legal deadline for abortion from 12 to 14 weeks, in addition to abolishing the legal conscience clause for health professionals.

As the bill transited through the national assembly, the first reading, the Social Affairs Committee, and the second reading on February 10th, new clauses were added aiming at further facilitating abortion:

  • Eliminating the 48-hour reflection period of cooling-off for minors;
  • Allowing midwives to practice surgical abortions up to 10 weeks of pregnancy;
  • Extending the deadline for medically induced abortions at home from 5 to 7 weeks of pregnancy;
  • Subjecting pharmacists to explicit obligation to deliver “the morning-after pill”;
  • Delivering to the Parliament a government’s report on the implementation of the legislation to penalize the crime of obstruction to an abortion.

In view of the fact that statistics show there are more abortions performed in France than ever before, this blatant attempt pushing toward unlimited abortion is highly criticized, both politically and socially.

The College of Physicians is opposed to draft bill and asserted that “neither abolishing the conscience clause nor lengthening legal deadlines […] can be a solution to the difficulties our fellow citizens might experience today if they decide to have an abortion.”

Although the “CCNE” (National Consultative Ethics Committee) issued controversial recommendations about extending abortion deadlines, it did concede that abortion is not “an ordinary medical procedure” and that it is justified to continue having a specific conscience clause for health professionals.

Bulldozing forward on such a sensitive subject where human lives are at stake seems to indicate that ideological maneuvering is at play. The bill lacks any notion of preventive or solidarity measures, although women with the lowest stand of living are much more likely to have abortions. Instead of being jostled left and right by ideological disputes, the government needs to stop making access to abortion easier. Instead, an in-depth study on the causes and consequences of abortion must be conducted in order to implement a genuinely forthright policy to prevent abortions.

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