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Minister slams Spain's 'Stone Age' plans amid French abortion debate

Demonstration against proposed changes to French abortion law - Paris 19 Jan.
Demonstration against proposed changes to French abortion law - Paris 19 Jan. Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

A Spanish government plan to tighten abortion laws will return women there to the Stone Age, French Social Affairs Minister Marisol Touraine said on Tuesday. 


Her remark comes amid growing debate over a new French bill which would scrap the current requirement for women to prove they are in distress in order to have a legal abortion.

"The proposed Spanish law constitutes an unprecedented regressive step that will take women back to the Stone Age," Touraine said in her New Year reception for the press on Tuesday.

Spain's conservative government last month said it intended to roll back a 2010 law allowing women to have an abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The legislation, yet to pass in parliament where the ruling Popular Party enjoys an absolute majority, would allow abortion only in cases of rape or where there is a threat to the physical or psychological health of the mother.

France's left-dominated parliament on Monday began debating a wide-ranging bill, including a proposal allowing a woman to obtain an abortion on demand, during the first 14 weeks of a pregnancy.

Under the current law, introduced in 1975 after a bitter debate which famously left its centre-right champion of the time, Simone Veil, in tears, the woman must prove that having a baby would put her "in a situation of distress".

France's Minister for Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, yesterday labelled that condition for termination “obsolete”.

The new French proposals would also punish those who try to prevent a woman from accessing information on abortion.

The bill is expected to be passed by France’s lower house of parliament on Friday.

On Sunday in France thousands of people gathered in Paris to protest against the proposed reforms. Police figures suggest 16,000 took part in the demonstration while the organisers say there were 40,000 protestors.

Some French politicians worry that re opening the debate on abortion in France could prove highly divisive.

François Fillon, Prime Minister during Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right presidency, said in his blog that the decision to change the abortion rules was “a moral and political mistake”.

He said it was a “moral mistake because there is a risk that it will normalise abortion, which according to Simone Veil’s phrase should remain ‘the exception’; [a] political mistake because [the government] is taking the risk of dividing, once again, the French people.”

There were major demonstrations in the run-up to last year's law allowing same-sex marriage and adoption, revealing deep divisions of opinion among the French on the issue.   

France records around 220,000 abortions a year, and it is estimated that around one Frenchwoman in three undergoes the procedure in her lifetime.

The state health system began reimbursing abortion costs in January 2013.


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