Abortion in France
Abortion in France is legal on demand up to 12-weeks after conception (14 weeks after the last menstrual period), since the Veil Law in 1975. Abortions at later stages of pregnancy are allowed if two physicians certify that the abortion will be done to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; a risk to the life of the pregnant woman; or that the child will suffer from a particularly severe illness recognized as incurable.
In the Middle Ages abortion was considered a cardinal sin.,. Abortion had been criminalized in France with the imposition of the Napoleonic Code. During the German occupation during World War II, the Vichy régime made abortion a capital crime. The last execution took place in 1942. Following the war, the death penalty for abortion was abolished, and special courts were set up to deal with abortion cases.
Illegal abortion rates remained fairly high during the post-war period, and increasing numbers of women began to travel to the United Kingdom to procure abortions after the UK legalized abortion in 1967. France legalized abortion in 1975, which was available on demand initially until the tenth week, which was extended to the twelfth week of pregnancy in 2001. Since 1982, the cost of abortions are taken in charge by the French social security system.
It is customary to schedule abortions one week after the patient demands it as a "cool-off" period, but this delay can be shortened if the patient is getting close to 12 weeks. After then, two physicians must certify that the patient's health is endangered or there is a high likelihood that the fetus is handicapped by a non-curable serious illness; otherwise, abortion is illegal.
Since 1994, French law has required that multidisciplinary diagnostic centers decide which birth defects are severe enough to make abortion after 12 week limits.
France was the first country to legalize the use of RU-486 as an abortifacient in 1988, allowing its use up to seven weeks of pregnancy. By one estimate, a quarter of all French abortions now use RU-486.
A pregnant girl under the age of 18 may ask for an abortion without consulting her parents first if she accompanied to the clinic by an adult of her choice, who must not tell her parents or any third party about the abortion.
- "au Moyen Age, l’Eglise en fait un péché capital" : Marie-France Morel "Histoire de l’avortement", Société d'Histoire de la Naissance, 2 January 2012
- Abortion Guide (French) p. 34-35, from the French Ministry of Health