France extends abortion deadline

Nation’s health minister called the move a step towards “pragmatism and equality”

The French parliament has voted in favor of extending the country’s abortion deadline from 12 to 14 weeks, bringing it in line with Spain and Austria. However, it is still behind others in Europe, with the UK having a time limit of 24 weeks.

The legislation, passed by a vote of 135 to 47 on Wednesday, will also permit midwives to carry out the procedure. Health Minister Olivier Veran described the move as a step towards greater “pragmatism and equality.”

“Today is an important day for sexual and reproductive health, and an important day for women’s health,” Veran declared.

The bill will provide citizens with more time to decide whether to end a pregnancy, and was passed partly in response to a shortage of practicing doctors and the closure of a number of abortion clinics across the nation. 

Between 2001 and 2011, more than 130 health centers where abortions could be carried out were closed amid a reorganization and restructuring program, according to France24. According to campaigners, the previous deadline had resulted in 3,000 French women being forced to travel abroad each year for to procure a termination.

The law also gets rid of a two-day reflection period and establishes a directory of health officials who can perform the procedure.

It had been initially proposed by the opposition MP Albane Gaillot but passed with support from President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! party.

Presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse condemned the move as a “headlong rush that distracts from the real problem,” however, and urged the parliament to address “the access to abortion centers [and] the lack of gynecologists and midwives.”

A Kantar poll in 2021 found 80% of French people supported the extension of the deadline for terminations.

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