Fury as French gynaecologists’ union threatens to stop carrying out abortions over fears government insurers won’t pay out for medical negligence
- The Syngof union said it made the threat in a bid to get attention for its cause
- France’s health minister accused the union of ‘taking women hostage’
- Abortion by choice is legal in France until the 12th week of pregnancy
- The country’s medical council said women have unconditional’ right to abortion
French doctors have been accused of taking women hostage after they threatened to stop performing abortions in a protest against the government.
The Syngof gynaecologists’ union said in an email to its 1,600 members they should ‘be ready to stop carrying out terminations to make ourselves heard’.
The union is angry because, it claims, its members are being denied insurance coverage by the government because its fund is ‘too fragile’ to support them.
The country’s health minister, Agnès Buzyn, said: ‘In no case should taking women hostage in this way be used as a lever for negotiations.’
And she added the union’s threat was out of keeping with France’s ‘unconditional respect for the right to abortion’.
Medical council the French Order of Doctors also condemned the move and France’s equality minister, Marléne Schiappa called it ‘unacceptable blackmail’.
France’s health minister Agnés Buzyn has accused the Syngof gynaecologists’ union of ‘taking women hostage’ over its demands to be heard on insurance for its members
Syngof – the Syndicat National des Gynécologues et Obstétriciens de France – said medics are working in fear of ‘ruin’ because the government’s insurance fund won’t cover them if they’re sued.
The government claims a state-run medical insurance scheme is ‘too fragile’ to support them. Syngof said this means gynaecologists, anaesthetists and surgeons in the field have been ‘denied’ coverage for years.
Jean Marty, a board member and former president of the union, made the controversial remarks in an email sent to around 2,000 Syngof members.
There was backlash against Mr Marty after the email was leaked on social media. But he later said the controversy was deliberate and they would carry on performing abortions.
According to French newspaper Le Monde, he said: ‘I’m sorry to have to pose a threat.
‘But touching a taboo is the only way to be taken into consideration when a significant problem is not taken into account.’
In a statement Syngof admitted: ‘The only way today to be heard is to generate a false controversy over social networks.’
The union is demanding to hold talks with the government, The Guardian reported. But it has now been accused of holding women’s rights to ransom until it succeeds.
The controversy has erupted just months after the president of Syngof himself, Dr Bertrand de Rochambeau, said he refuses to do abortions because they are a form of murder.
Abortion is legal in France and women can have one out of choice within the first 12 weeks – in the UK pregnant women must have a health-related reason to terminate.
Ms Schiappa said: ‘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,’ The Guardian reported.
President of the country’s Family Planning Association, Caroline Rebhi, added: ‘This new incident shows us that even if the right to abortion is written in the law, it cannot yet be taken for granted.’
Syngof represents around a quarter of gynaecologists and obstetricians in France.
PARENTS DEMAND ANSWERS AFTER MYSTERY BIRTH DEFECT DEFORMS BABIES
Parents, doctors and advocacy groups are demanding answers about why babies have been born in France with missing arms and hands.
They met in Paris for the first time last month to discuss the mysterious birth defect, known as upper limb reduction, which is cropping up across rural regions of the country.
A panel of scientists has been brought in to ‘identify and analyse’ what is behind the scandal and will meet early next month.
Over the past 15 years, dozens of infants have been delivered in three regions, including Brittany, with missing or malformed arms.
The defects sparked a public health scare, with authorities admitting the rate of disabilities is ‘excessive’.
The issue came to light last September when France 2 Television reported an unusually high case of limb reduction in the eastern Rhônes-Alpes region between 2009 and 2017, France 24 reported.
At least seven babies were born with the defect in the rural area of Ain near the Swiss border, according to a 2014 report by the public health body Remera.
Remera was created after the thalidomide scandal by the national agency Santé Publique France (SPF) and is responsible for tracking birth defects.
Off the back of the cases in Ain, SPF announced on October 4 it was launching an investigation.
SPF was expected to report its early findings in January but didn’t do so.