The Path to Choice: Abortion in France

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wadedecision. All month, we’ll be running posts examining various aspects of this landmark ruling. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

The right to choose and perform abortion in France dates from 1975, thanks to the Veil Act (named for the Minister of Health Simone Veil, who proposed and defended the law). Before that, the 1920 Act forbade any incitement to contraceptive and abortion, which was considered a crime. Under the Vichy regime during the World War II, abortion was a crime against state security and punishable by the death penalty—in 1943, for example, Madame Marie-Louise Giraud, who practiced abortions to provide for her family during German occupation, was guillotined. During the early 1970s, the country saw an increase in activism in favor of the right to choose abortion; the 1972 Bobigny Case, in which a teen rape victim risked her life to obtain an illegal abortion, caused a groundswell of opinion that led to the Veil Act.

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