French Senate backtracks on changes that would have extended abortion timeframe to 14 weeks

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By Cristina Abellan Matamoros
French Senate backtracks on changes that would have extended abortion timeframe to 14 weeks
Copyright  REUTERS/ Jean-Christophe Kahn

French senators have backtracked on a bill that would have increased the possible legal timeframe to get an abortion from 12 to 14 weeks.

The bill had been adopted last Friday but on Tuesday, the French Senate changed their minds during a second hearing of the bill.

In a series of tweets, French socialist party senator Laurence Rossignol said she decided to introduce the bill to tackle the closing of maternity wards and avoid doctors turning away women because they did not meet the requirements for a late-term abortion.

One of the articles of the bill was also to publish a list of the doctors who had refused abortions in the past to make women aware and not "waste their time" going to these doctors.

It stated that "there is no scientific consensus on a necessary time period" for a safe abortion to be given and the change "represents an improvement in the sexual and reproductive rights of women".

But the bill was voted down when it went back to the chamber on Tuesday after the French right-wing party, The Republicans, called for a second vote.

What is France's abortion law?

Abortion was legalised on January 17, 1975, in France under the "Veil law" (Loi Veil), referring to health minister Simone Veil.

The law allowed a legal abortion up to the 10th week of pregnancy and required a parental authorisation for children.

The 1982 Roudy law (Loi Roudy), named after women's rights minister Yvette Roudy, made abortions refundable by French social security. Twenty-one years later, abortions became free for all women no matter the method used.

In 1993, a law was passed to sanction preventing or attempting to prevent an abortion by limiting access to facilities or threatening the woman involved.

In 2001, the legal delay to get an abortion went to up to 12 weeks.

What were the proposed changes to the current French abortion law?

Rossignol's bill proposed extending the legal timeframe for an abortion from 12 to 14 weeks.

Why would women seek a late-term abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy?

Some of the reasons why women could be prone to seek a late-term abortion include: screening of major anatomic or genetic anomalies in the second trimester, finding out about an unwanted pregnancy after 12 weeks, or having a doctor refuse to provide an abortion.

In France, between 3,000 and 5,000 women are obliged to travel abroad to seek an abortion after the 12th week, said a 2013 government study on the access to abortion.

What are abortion rights in other EU countries?

Most countries in the EU have legislation allowing for early abortion on request and permitting terminations in certain circumstances beyond that.

Leah Hoctor, regional director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Euronews that 25 of 28 EU member states have made it lawful for women to access abortion "either on a woman’s request, without restriction as to reason or for reasons of distress, or on broad socioeconomic or psychological grounds, at least in early pregnancy."

Malta, Northern Ireland and Poland have the strictest abortion regulations in the European Union.

READ MORE: Which European countries have the strictest abortion rules?

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