French President Approves Gender Equality Law

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(PRESS RELEASE) France affirms that women can obtain an abortion without restriction as to reason during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy with passage of a sweeping gender equality law today by President François Holland.

This equality law will amend France’s existing abortion law, passed in 1975, that has only allowed “a pregnant woman whose condition puts her in a situation of distress” the legal right to terminate her pregnancy. Additionally, the law will outlaw any attempt to prevent a woman from accessing information about abortion services.

“At a time when women in many parts of the world, including in the United States and Spain, are seeing their rights restricted, violated, and disrespected, France has set an important example for the rest of the globe with its progressive stance toward reproductive health care,” said Lilian Sepúlveda, director of the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Ensuring a woman’s right to control her fertility is fundamental to achieving gender equality. But passing today’s law is just the first step—we now look to French policymakers to ensure women see the benefits of this historic law implemented this year.”

In April 2013, the French government enacted legislation that requires the government to cover the full cost of legal abortions for every woman seeking services, as well as fully cover contraception for adolescent girls aged 15 to 18. Both initiatives fulfill the French President François Hollande’s promise to strengthen reproductive rights and health care, with a goal of reducing the country's rate of abortion.

The National Assembly voted to amend France’s current abortion law on January 21. This law is part of a number of gender equality measures parliament is taking up, including extending paternity leave to six months and higher fines for failing to achieve gender parity in business and politics.