Why the history of illegal abortion in France in the 60’s is relevant today

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Professor, Faculty of Sociology, European University, Co-Director of the Gender Studies Program

According to the Guttmacher Institute (USA), the number of abortions in countries where they are prohibited and in countries where they are legalized does not differ significantly: 37 abortions per thousand people in the first case and 34 abortions per thousand people in the second. This shows that modern contraceptive culture makes it possible to control reproductive behavior.

But there are women who fall into the trap of unwanted pregnancies. Most often, these are representatives of disadvantaged social groups and young women who are just entering sexual life. And they are the ones who suffer the most from the criminalization of abortion. Take, for example, Poland, where abortion is possible only on medical grounds and if the pregnancy is the result of criminal violence. What do wealthy people who want to terminate a pregnancy do in such a difficult situation? They go to neighboring EU countries and pay local doctors. Those who are deprived of such an opportunity are forced to terminate the pregnancy on their own or use the services of underground obstetricians.

Women are often forced to have abortions – it is difficult to call their choice free. They may not have a reliable partner; perhaps the economic factor plays a role. In addition, the state declares them criminals, as well as those doctors who have agreed to help them. Legislation favors an unborn being over a living person who will be responsible for that creature for 15 to 20 years. The criminalization of abortion is an extremely brutal and inhumane coercive measure that restricts women’s rights, rather than helping them solve the problems of modern life.

Erno demonstrates how the discriminatory effect of the law manifests itself: a woman who decides to terminate her pregnancy on her own becomes a marginal and a criminal who has challenged the moral foundations of society. Even an acquaintance of the heroine, a member of the Family Planning organization, which sought contraception, refuses to lend the girl money for an abortion, citing moral standards. However, this does not prevent him from harassing girls: “I did not think that Jean T. despised me. Just for him, I went from the category of girls about whom you do not know whether they agree to sleep, to the category of girls who just slept with someone.

Someone LB agrees to help the heroine – a woman who had an abortion a few years ago. She gives the girl the address of a nurse who practices abortions at home, and lends the necessary amount. But even with LB, with whom she is connected by common experience, the heroine can not be completely frank – the stigma of abortion and here makes itself felt. When LB visits the heroine in the hospital, they compare their abortion stories and remember with laughter what happened, but this laughter does not release from the fear, but only helps to hide it: “They liked my story – it was not one of those details that I later remembered endlessly. “

Maybe that’s why Annie Erno decided to write another, original one a story about an event in the early 60’s. She put into words her experience – unique but at the same time uniting her with millions of other women in France and around the world who have also experienced reproductive violence:

“I have redeemed the only guilt I felt in connection with this event: the guilt that I survived it and did nothing with it. As if I had a gift, but wasted it. Because in addition to all the socio-psychological reasons for what I went through, there is another one, and I am most sure of it: it happened to me to tell about it. And, perhaps, this is the true meaning of my life: to make my body, my feelings and my thoughts a text, that is, something clear and common; that my existence may be completely dissolved in the minds and destinies of others. “

Thanks to Ksenia Petrova for help in preparing the material.

Cover: no-kidding

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