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CRIME

‘No error’ over faulty breast implants: court

A French appeals court on Thursday found German safety standards body TUV had "fulfilled its obligations" in certifying breast implants that were found to be faulty and sparked a worldwide scare.

'No error' over faulty breast implants: court
Lawyer Laurent Gaudon (R) and his clients who received the faulty implants at the start of the trial in 2013. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP

The ruling overturns a decision by a lower French court in 2013 which had found the body liable and ordered the company to pay millions of euros in compensation to distributors and victims.

TUV certified that implants made by French firm Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) conformed to safety rules — even though they were subsequently found to contain substandard, industrial-grade silicone gel.

The body has maintained it was never its job to check the actual implants, and their task was only to inspect the manufacturing process.

The appeals court in the southern city of Toulon found that TUV and its French subsidiary had “fulfilled the obligations incumbent upon them as a certifying body (and) committed no error engaging their criminal responsiblity.”

The scandal first emerged in 2010 after doctors noticed abnormally high rupture rates in PIP implants and gathered steam worldwide in 2011, with some 300,000 women in 65 countries believed to have received the faulty implants.

Six distributors of the implants from Bulgaria, Brazil, Italy, Syria, Mexico and Romania and nearly 1,700 women — most of them from South America but also from France and Britain — sued TUV.

The lower French court ordered the German body to compensate the women €3,000 ($3,300) each while waiting for individual medical or financial assessments to be conducted on each plaintiff and TUV paid out a total of €5.8 million.

“They will technically have to pay back this money but no decision has been taken on a request for reimbursement,” said a source close to the safety body.

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POLITICS

French MPs vote to add the right to abortion to the constitution

Lawmakers in the French parliament voted on Thursday to add the right to abortion to the constitution in response to recent changes in the United States and Poland.

French MPs vote to add the right to abortion to the constitution

Members of parliament from the left-wing La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party and the ruling centrist coalition agreed on Thursday on the wording of the new clause, which was then put to a larger vote.

“The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy,” reads the proposed constitutional addition to article 66.

It was passed in the Assemblée nationale with a large majority – 337 to 32 against, but still needs to be approved in the Senate.    

“It’s a big step… but it’s just the first step,” said centrist MP Sacha Houlie from Macron’s Renaissance party.

The initiative was prompted by the US Supreme Court’s explosive decision this year to overturn the nationwide right to termination procedures for Americans.

In Europe, the conservative government of Poland has also heavily restricted abortion rights.

LFI lawmaker Mathilde Panot said the move was necessary in France to “protect ourselves against a regression”.   

In a speech to parliament, she cited the late French writer and women’s rights activist Simone de Beauvoir.

“We only need a political, economic or religious crisis for the rights of women to come into question,” she said.

The agreement was a rare instance of cooperation between the hard-left LFI and the centrist allies of President Emmanuel Macron – who no longer have an overall majority in the National Assembly.

A previous attempt to inscribe the right to abortion as well as contraception into the constitution, with different wording, was rejected by the conservative-dominated Senate in October.

Many conservative and Catholic politicians have announced their misgivings, seeing it as unnecessary given the legal protections already in place.

“It appears totally misplaced to open a debate which, although it exists in the United States, does not exist in France,” far-right leader Marine Le Pen said in a statement this week.

“No political group is thinking about questioning access to abortions,” she said.

Parliamentary records initially showed Le Pen voting in favour of the change on Thursday, but these were later corrected to reveal she was not there for the vote. Her spokesman said this was due to a medical issue. MPs from her party and the right-wing Les Républicains abstained.

Abortion was legalised in France in 1974 in a law championed by health minister Simone Veil, a women’s rights icon granted the rare honour of burial at the Pantheon by Macron upon her death in 2018.

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