French obs/gynae union threatens to halt abortions over lack of medical error insurance

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A French gynaecologists’ union has threatened to halt pregnancy terminations in an attempt to force the country’s health minister to meet disgruntled doctors. The Guardian reports that the Syngof union wrote to its 1,600 members calling them to be prepared to stop carrying out abortions to “make ourselves heard” and force the government’s hand.

The report says Syngof, which represents about a quarter of France’s gynaecologists and obstetricians, published the letter as a protest over what it claims is a lack of insurance funds for colleagues convicted of medical errors.

Health Minister Agnès Buzyn and feminist organisations said the threat was “unacceptable” and amounted to “taking women hostage”. The report quotes Buzyn as saying: “In no case should taking women hostage in this way be used as a lever for negotiations or for media coverage of an issue the department is following very closely.” She added the threat went against the “unconditional respect for the right to abortion guaranteed in our country” and said she regretted the “distorted image” such statements gave of French gynaecologists and obstetricians “from a union that is supposed to represent them”.

The report says the row erupted just months after Syngof’s president, Dr Bertrand de Rochambeau, justified his refusal to perform pregnancy terminations, declaring that abortions amounted to “homicide”. In the letter sent this week and signed by his colleague Jean Marty, a former union president, gynaecologists were urged to “be ready to stop carrying out terminations to make ourselves heard”.

After provoking a wave of criticism, the report quotes Marty as saying he had been deliberately provocative. “That’s why we did it,” he said.

The French Order of Doctors, the equivalent of the General Medical Council in the UK, condemned the threat, which it declared “totally contrary to medical ethics”. According to the report, French Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa also said it was “unacceptable blackmail”. “Everywhere in the world, women’s rights are threatened, sometimes by governments, sometimes by interest groups, non-governmental organisations, unions … the mere existence of these threats is shameful,” Schiappa said. The feminist organisation Osez le Féminisme tweeted: “Syngof threatens an abortion strike. They could have had a cervical smear strike, non? This from the same union of (Bernard de Rochambeau) who called abortion a homicide”.

The joint president of the Family Planning Association, Caroline Rebhi, said in the report it was a “backwards step … but not entirely a surprise”. She said Syngof had a habit of “going too far in this way”. “This new incident shows us that even if the right to abortion is written in the law, it cannot yet be taken for granted,” Rebhi said.

The Guardian report

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