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French lawmakers vote to relax abortion legislation

2 min

French lawmakers voted late on Tuesday to amend the country’s abortion law to make it easier for a woman to terminate a pregnancy if she chooses to, despite opposition from the country’s more conservative political parties.


The Veil Law, as France’s abortion legislation is known, was first passed in 1975. Advocated by former health minister Simone Veil, after whom it is named, the statute guaranteed all “pregnant women whose condition puts her in a situation of distress” the right to terminate her pregnancy.

While abortion access in France is generally unrestricted, many have criticised the wording of the Veil Law as archaic and obsolete.

“Abortion is a right in itself and not something that is simply tolerated depending on the conditions,” Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France’s minister of women’s rights, said.

The amendment, which was approved with the support of the country’s left-leaning parties, changes the text to clearly state that a “woman has the right to choose whether or not to continue with her pregnancy”.

The changes met with stiff opposition from conservative lawmakers and pro-life groups, who described the amendment as a “dogmatic modification” and pushed for it to be stricken down.

Meanwhile, lawmakers voted against another amendment submitted by some members of the centre-right UMP party that sought to stop abortions from being reimbursed by the country’s social security system.

In October, the socialist-led government approved changes to the social security budget under which all abortions are reimbursed 100 percent by the state.

Abortion rights are widely supported in French society (86 percent of women support it, according to a 2010 IFOP poll).

Despite this, there is an increasingly vocal pro-life movement, and an annual “March for Life” has taken place in late January ever since the 30th anniversary of the Veil law in 2005.

This year’s march, which was held on Jan. 19, drew upwards of 16,000 protesters to the streets of Paris, police said.

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