Abortions in France hit record high

The number of abortion procedures carried out in France during 2019 were the highest on recording, according to new statistics.

A report released by the French Directorate of Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (Drees), 232,244 abortions occurred in 2019, up from 226,812 in 2007 – their previous highest year. 

The figures reported also represented a significant increase from 2018, when 224,023 abortions were recorded.

The highest number of abortions was among women aged 20-29, with an abortion rate of 27.8 per 1000 women. In addition, of the 232,244 abortions reported, 93% (217,500) were performed on women living in metropolitan areas. 

A demography report released in January by the national institute of statistics and economic studies revealed that 753,000 babies were born in 2019, meaning nearly 1 in 4 pregnancies in France ended in abortion in 2019. 

The United Kingdom, which has a similar population to France, reported 220,967 abortions in 2019, a difference of 4.85% between the two countries.

Abortion in France

Abortion is legal up to 12 weeks in France and only if  “the continuation of pregnancy would severely endanger the health of the woman”, however, an amendment to their abortion law passed 60 votes to 37 in July to expand the abortion time limit up to nine months in the event of “psychosocial distress”.

Alliance Vita, a French pro-life group, expressed concern over the vague language of the new legislation as it “blows up the [current] abortion framework” as “psychosocial distress” is an “unverifiable criterion” which will allow an abortion until the last day of pregnancy.

The law was introduced as a last minute amendment to the Bioéthique Bill and was voted on in the middle of the night without a prior announcement or impact study. 

As a result of the timing, only 101 National Assembly members voted on the controversial Bill out of a total of 577.

Additionally, Alliance Vita objected to the lack of time taken to assess the consequences and impact of the Bill. One of the Bill’s main opponents, Emmanuelle Ménard, was unable to speak out against the legislation and its amendments during its Second Reading.

Extension of abortion time limits

A further change to the abortion law was submitted to the National Assembly on 29 September by rapporteurs Marie-Noëlle Battistel and Cécile Muschotti.

The bill calls for an increase in the current abortion time limit from 12 weeks to 14 weeks and the elimination of conscientious objection for medical practitioners unwilling to perform an abortion or refer a woman to another healthcare provider. 

Warning against the extension of abortion time limits, the president of the National College of French Gynecologists and Obstetricians, Professor Israel Nisand, stated that, “The head of the fetus is ossified and must be crushed. The gesture itself is therefore terrible for the person doing it, and for the patient.”

According to Nisand, the abortion activists in France are out of step with nearly all French doctors, who have voted against the extension of abortion time limits four times. 

The proposed law is due to be debated on 8 October.