“It gave us organizational flexibility”

The decree authorizing midwives to practice “instrumental” voluntary terminations of pregnancies (IVGs) must be published by the end of the week. Around twenty French hospitals are already experimenting with the measurement.


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Illustration, Nord Franche-Comté hospital on May 3, 2021 (MICHAEL DESPREZ / MAXPPP)

To facilitate access to abortion, midwives will now be able to carry out voluntary terminations of so-called “instrumental” pregnancies. The decree authorizing them must be published by the end of the week. Until now, the measure had been tested for two years in around twenty hospitals, and in particular at Pitié Salpêtrière, in Paris.

Delphine Giraud is a midwife there. For a year, like doctors, she has been practicing instrumental abortions, under local or general anesthesia, and up to 14 weeks of pregnancy: “It’s a real technical gesture to learn but I worked for seven years in the birthing room. It remains a gesture of the genital sphere which is possible for midwives because this type of gesture is already in our field of SKILLS.”

A response to the lack of practitioners

The results of this experiment are positive, rejoices the head of the department, Professor Marc Dommergue: “People who requested an abortion were completely willing to have the instrumental abortion done by a midwife. It’s something that was completely socially accepted.” A midwife who performs instrumental and surgical abortions also adds an extra person to the roster and continuity of activity when a doctor is absent: “Indeed, it gave us organizational flexibility that we didn’t have before.”

The law also responds to the overall shortage of healthcare personnel, explains Bérengère Couillard, Minister responsible for Equality between women and men: “It’s a very concrete response to the lack of practitioners in a certain number of areas – and not just rural ones, we also see it in the heart of Paris.” In Paris, health professionals testify, waiting times for an abortion can reach three weeks during school holidays.

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