Abortion in France: A Brief History
France has extended access to abortions during the COVID19 pandemic. Here is a brief history and timeline of abortion regulations in France for all to follow.
Blog by Emmanuelle Levrier
In most countries, abortion legislation has come as a result of a long struggle. France is certainly one of them. The French Mouvement for Family Planning, along with other political actors, managed to mobilize policy-makers for decriminalization of contraception and abortion as well as for various amendments aiming at ensuring access to abortion for all. Here is a brief timeline of the abortion regulations in France, from it's initial decriminalization to it's extension with telemedicine.
1967: The Neuwirth Law of Contraception
On 27th of December 1967, The Neuwirth law decriminalized the use of contraception in France.
1975: The Veil Law of Abortion
On January 17th, 1975, the "Veil Law", named after the then French Minister of Health, Simon Veil, is approved by the parliament and decriminalized termination of pregnancy. As per the law, the legal delay to access abortion is 10 weeks. Despite being a huge success for the abortion movement, the law is problematic in many ways. It reserves a "conscience clause" for medical practitioners and states that the person resorting abortion should be "in distress." A parental authorization is required for minors, and two medical consultations and a psychological consultation are required prior to abortion. There must be a 7 days delay between the first consultation and the actual abortion. Termination of pregnancy is not refunded by social security.
1982: Abortions are partially funded by the State
In 1982, the French state starts to partially fund abortions.
1988: The Birth of the Abortion Pill
Mifepristone, or RU 486, also know as the abortion pill, is commercialized in France. The molecule was created by Etienne-Emile Baulieu and patented by the laboratory Roussel-UCLAF. Even though the latter wanted to stop the commercialization of the molecule, the then French Minister of Health Claude Evin refused to allow the company to withdraw it. Evin said that the abortion pill is the "moral property of women."
1989: Medical abortions are authorized
The practice of medical abortion is authorized in any hospital sector.
2001: Amendments to the Veil Law
A new law on abortion is adopted, aiming at facilitating abortion access. The first consultation is made optional for majors, information provided does not incite to pursuing the pregnancy anymore. The legal period of time to proceed an abortion is raised to 14 weeks of amenorrhea (14 weeks from the end of the last periods). Mandatory justification of a “residence permit” is cancelled for foreign people, as well as the parent or statutory guardian approval for minors (replaced by an adult accompaniment).
2004: Allowing private practitioners to perform medical abortions
An implementing decree make legal for private practitioners to perform medical abortions until the 7th week of amenorrhea.
2007: Further expanding delivery sites for medical abortions
Planning centers and health facilities are allowed to perform medical abortions.
2013: Abortion becomes free
2016: Allowing midwives to perform abortions
The 7 days “reflection” delay between the demand of abortion and the actual abortion is suppressed for majors and reduced to 48h for minors. Midwives are authorized to practice medical abortions is the exact same conditions as doctors. Every procedure required within the framework of abortion care is refunded.
2020: Telemedicine abortion is allowed within the COVID19 context
In the context of Covid19 health crisis, telemedical abortions were allowed in France as part of a special and temporary measure, until the 7th week of amenorrhea. Pregnant people were allowed to have teleconsultations with doctors through phone or internet in order to take medical abortion pills at home. This special measure was removed few months later in July upon deconfinement and normalization.
Last Update: 08/09/2020