Abortion in France

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Births, legal abortions, and clandestine abortions in France between 1968 and 2005.

Abortion in France is legal on demand up to 12 weeks after conception (14 weeks after the last menstrual period).[1] 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.[2][3][4] The abortion law was liberalized by the Veil Law in 1975.


Simone Veil, a key figure in the legalization of abortion in 1975
Passerelle Marie-Claire, in memory of a 1972 trial which ended with the acquittal of an "abortionist", and eventually led to the 1975 law which legalized the procedure

In the Middle Ages, abortion was considered a cardinal sin by Catholic Church teaching.[5] Abortion was legalized during the French revolution,[citation needed] but was re-criminalized in France with the imposition of the 1810 Napoleonic Code, which punished any person who procured an abortion with imprisonment. In 1939, the Penal Code was altered to permit an abortion that would save the pregnant woman's life.[6] During the German occupation during World War II, the Vichy régime made abortion a capital crime.[citation needed] The last person to be executed for abortion was Marie-Louise Giraud, who was guillotined on 30 July 1943. Following the war, the death penalty for abortion was abolished, but abortion continued to be prosecuted vigorously.[5]

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.[7] France legalized abortion in Law 75-17 of 18 January 1975, which permitted a woman to receive an abortion on request until the tenth week of pregnancy. After a trial period, Law 75-17 was adopted permanently in December 1979.[3]

Since 1982, much of the costs of abortions are taken in charge by the French social security system.[8]

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 under supervision of a physician. By a United Nations Population Division estimate, 19% of all French abortions used RU-486 as of 2002.[3]

21st century liberalization[edit]

Several reforms took place in the 21st century, further liberalizing access to abortion. The ten-week limit was extended to the twelfth week in 2001.[9] Also since 2001, minor girls no longer need mandatory parental consent. A pregnant girl under the age of 18 may ask for an abortion without consulting her parents first if she is accompanied to the clinic by an adult of her choice, who must not tell her parents or any third party about the abortion.[2][10] Until 2015, the law imposed a seven-day "cool-off" period between the patient's first request for an abortion and a written statement confirming her decision (the delay could be reduced to two days if the patient was getting close to 12 weeks). That mandatory waiting period was abolished on 9 April 2015.[11]


As of 2009, the abortion rate was 17.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44,[12] a slight increase over the 2002 rate of 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://ivg.social-sante.gouv.fr/avortement-quels-sont-les-delais-a-respecter-pour-avorter.html[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b International Planned Parenthood Foundation European Network (January 2009). Abortion Legislation in Europe (PDF) (Report). pp. 28–29. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "France". Abortion Policies: A Global Review (DOC). United Nations Population Division. 2002. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  4. ^ Boring, Nicolas (January 2015). Abortion Legislation in Europe: France (Report). The Law Library of Congress, Global Legal Research Center. p. 13. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  5. ^ a b Morel, Marie-France (2 January 2012). "Histoire de l'avortement" (in French). La Société d’Histoire de la Naissance. Archived from the original on 25 February 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  6. ^ "Introduction". Abortion Policies: A Global Review (DOC). United Nations Population Division. 2002. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  7. ^ Herzog, Dagmar (2011). Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth-Century History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 156–158. ISBN 9781139500739. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  9. ^ Loi n° 2001-588 du 4 juillet 2001 relative à l'interruption volontaire de grossesse et à la contraception, article 1 (in French)
  10. ^ "Fiche pratique: Interruption volontaire de grossesse (IVG)". Service-Public.fr (in French). 7 June 2016. Retrieved 29 January 2017. Cependant, si vous souhaitez garder le secret, l'IVG est pratiquée à votre seule demande. Dans cette hypothèse, vous devrez vous faire accompagner dans votre démarche par une personne majeure de votre choix.
  11. ^ Béguin, François (9 April 2015). "IVG : l'Assemblée vote la suppression du délai de réflexion de sept jours". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  12. ^ "World Abortion Policies 2013". United Nations. 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  13. ^ "World Abortion Policies 2007". United Nations. 2007. Retrieved 29 January 2017.