This is a sensitive issue which was examined on Tuesday 12 May by the Council of State. The highest body of administrative justice, which for several weeks has been examining disputes related to the implementation of the state of health emergency, this time examined an appeal related to abortion.
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At the center of attention: the possibility for women to use a medicated abortion at home for up to seven weeks. A delay usually limited to five weeks, this technique can only be implemented between five and seven weeks in a hospital. But since an order of April 14, the authorities have decided to change the conditions of implementation during the duration of the state of health emergency.
After a teleconsultation with a doctor or midwife, women who have been pregnant for five to seven weeks and who wish to use a medicated abortion can therefore go directly to a pharmacy to be prescribed the medication that will allow them. A decision challenged by three associations which have filed an appeal before the Council of State: Alliance Vita, Jurists for Children and Pharmac’éthique.
“We had field alerts”
How to justify this extension? The women’s difficulty accessing the hospital to have an abortion, the health ministry officials said at the hearing. “We did not produce objectified data because the abortion data are very complicated to recover (…) but we had field alerts”, explained during the hearing Magali Guegan, of the sub-directorate “Population Health” of the Ministry of Health. Alerts notably given by Family Planning and gynecologists, she said.
“Right now, anything that can keep women from overloading hospitals where, by the way, they can catch Covid-19, is a good thing,” had explained to La Croix Professor Israel Nisand, president of the National College of French Gynecologists and Obstetricians.
“When you plan to have a doctor, it’s not for nothing”
At the Council of State, the representative of the government explained that this provision did not consist in an extension of the deadlines of the abortion strictly speaking, but rather in a reorganization of its implementation. “Sharing between cities [où l’IVG médicamenteuse est autorisée jusqu’à 5 semaines, NDLR] and hospital [où elle l’est jusqu’à 7] is a historic sharing “, she added.
So many arguments disputed by the associations, whose lawyers insisted on the difference between the situation of a woman aborting at five weeks, and that of a woman resorting to abortion at two weeks later.
“You don’t have the same bleeding and the same hemorrhagic risk at five or seven weeks”, said lawyer Vita, Maître Claire Rameix. “When you plan to have a doctor, it’s not for nothing. We have a dangerous drug. We are at risk of serious hemorrhage ”, she added. The lawyer denounced the “Disproportion” between this measurement and “The risk run by women”.
“There is a risk that this provision will last well beyond the state of emergency”, said the lawyer. Immediately contradicted by the director of legal affairs of the ministry of health, Charles Touboul. “All of these measures will lapse legally when the state of health emergency ends”, he said, referring to other decrees signed since March by the Minister of Health.
In a file published on April 9, the High Authority for Health recalled the “Precautions” essential when taking misoprostol, a drug that causes abortion, at home. Among them: the presence of a hospital less than an hour from the patient’s home, pain management, the possibility of being granted a sick leave and the importance for the patient of “Not (be) alone at home”.
The State Council decision is expected around May 18.