Extension of the abortion period: what limits?

The law of March 2, 2022 aimed at strengthening the right to abortion, resulting from the so-called “Gaillot” bill replaces, in article L. 2212-1 of the public health code, the word “twelfth” by the word “fourteenth”. Behind the somewhat enigmatic aridity of the provision is actually the lengthening of the period during which a woman can decide to terminate her pregnancy.

→ CONTEXT. Abortion: the Parliament adopts the extension of the deadlines

From twelve, we go to fourteen weeks of pregnancy, that is to say 16 weeks of amenorrhea (16 SA). This modification of the provisions resulting from the Veil law of January 17, 1975 is not the first, and if it deserves attention, it is because of the entirely practical difficulties that this text, presented to improve the fate of women wishing not to continue their pregnancies, risks posing.

Presented as progress

As can be understood from reading the explanatory memorandum to the bill, this measure was presented as progress for women: “although late abortions represent only a tiny part of abortions performed in France, each year, 3,000 to 5,000 women go abroad for abortions, for reasons of exceeding the legal deadlines in France” (Gaillot bill, explanatory memorandum). The order of doctors, however, affirmed that “nor the disappearance of the conscience clause, (provided for in the bill but rejected), nor the extension of the legal deadlines for access to abortion from 12 to 14 weeks, will make it possible to respond to the difficulties which can, even today, arise for our fellow citizens wishing to have recourse to an abortion”.

Moreover, it was exactly the same reasons that had led to the first modification of the deadline in 2001. Indeed, while it had been ten weeks since 1975, the law of July 4, 2001 had increased it to twelve weeks because “5,000 women leave for neighboring countries because they are determined to terminate their pregnancy but are beyond the legal time allowed to have an abortion” (Bill, Oct. 2000, explanatory memorandum). 5,000 women in 2001, still 5,000 in 2022: the Order of Physicians is therefore right when it asserts that the extension of the period will not make it possible to solve the problem. It might even make it worse.

“Disaffection of health professionals”

The day after the adoption of the bill at first reading, the national college of obstetrician-gynecologists warned of the risks induced by the change in the nature of abortion between 12 and 14 weeks: “The procedures required beyond 14 WA can therefore be a source of complications for women and their arduousness could lead to a loss of interest among the health professionals who perform them today. (similar to what happened during the previous extension from 12 to 14 weeks of amenorrhea in 2001) ».

More specifically, Professor Israel Nisand explains that “The weight of the fetus doubles between 12 and 14 weeks, the diameter of the head also doubles and its head is ossified. Either we cause a mini-birth, or we take the fetus out piece by piece” (Current values, February 24, 2022). If we had to find a virtue in the law of March 2, 2022, it would be to remember that crossing limits sometimes makes it possible to become aware of their necessary existence. A lesson to ponder for the legislator.


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