Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Abortion in France
Abortion had been criminalized with the imposition of the Napoleonic Code. During the Nazi 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, available on demand until the twelfth week of pregnancy on condition that women seeking abortions undergo counselling on alternatives thereto and that a one-week waiting period be observed. After the twelfth week, two physicians must certify that the woman’s health is endangered or the fetus is handicapped; 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 the 12 week limit permissible.
On the eve of the 1975 law's passage, it was hoped that the problem of abortion would disappear on its own as the public knowledge of contraception increased over the course of time. This was not to be the case: the abortion rate has essentially remained the same over the past 30 years, at roughly 150,000 abortions per annum in France, or roughly one abortion per each five live births.
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.
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