11.04.2020 Europe

France extends access to abortions during Covid-19 pandemic

By Sarah Elzas with RFI
© Jason Cairduff/Reuters
LISTEN APR 11, 2020
© Jason Cairduff/Reuters

France has extended access to medical abortions to nine weeks of pregnancy to ensure that women continue to have access to their rights during the coronavirus epidemic.

A medical, or medicated, abortion ends a pregnancy through medication, without the need for surgery. The pills can be prescribed by a doctor or midwife and in France, and a woman is allowed to take them up to seven weeks after her last period at home, or nine weeks if she is in a hospital setting.

Several rights groups had raised concerns about the difficulty of accessing abortions during the coronavirus epidemic, as hospitals are overwhelmed and people have been asked to stay at home. The worry was that women were waiting until past the legal date to access abortion.

The health ministry asked the Health authority for an emergency ruling last week, and the authority decided to allow women to have access to the medication at home up to nine weeks.

In a statement it said that the decision is justified by “the need to guarantee women's rights to access abortion during the Covid-19 epidemic and to avoid as much as possible that they go into a health facility.”

Abortion has been legal in France since 1974, and the government has said since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic that it remains an essential medical procedure, and doctors should continue to offer them.

Doctors and midwives have been allowed to prescribe the medications over the phone or by video consultation. The protocol is 200-600 milligrammes of mifepristone, followed by 800 milligrammes of misoprostol 24 or 48 hours later.

The authority warned that Covid-19 positive women should not use ibuprofen for pain, but instead be prescribed paracetamol and opioid-related drugs. It also urged women as much as possible to not be alone at home while undergoing the procedure.

(with wires)

The Planning Familiale is keeping an anonymous, free information hotline open during the crisis: 0800 08 11 11.

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