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French MPs approve law to extend abortion time limit

The Local France
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French MPs approve law to extend abortion time limit
Pro-choice campaigners at a demonstration in Paris in 2020. (Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP)

MPs in France have approved a law that extends the deadline for abortions, despite opposition from pro-life activists and far-right representatives.

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The law extending the abotion limit from 12 weeks to 14 weeks was approved by 135 lawmakers in a final vote in the Assemblée nationale on Wednesday, with 47 MPs voting against the extension, and nine abstaining.

It will be one of the final bills to be passed in this Parliament before it closes ahead of April’s presidential election.

According to campaigners, some 3,000 French women are forced to go abroad each year - often to the Netherlands, Spain or England - to have an abortion because they have exceeded the legal time limit. 

France now moves in line with Spain and Austria where abortion is legal up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. In the UK, the limit is 24 weeks.

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But a clause allowing doctors to refuse to perform abortions on ‘moral grounds’ survived the vote, despite efforts from some MPs to get it scrapped. 

MP Albane Gaillot, a former LREM member, who proposed the bill, described it as a “step forward” for women.

And Health Minister Olivier Véran welcomed the news as a move towards greater "pragmatism and equality".

"Today is an important day for sexual and reproductive health and an important day for women's health," he said, describing the law as crucial, “to end the distress of the thousands of women who have to go abroad”.

Meanwhile, presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse has said the new 14-week deadline is "a headlong rush that distracts from the real problem: access to abortion centres, the lack of gynaecologists and midwives".

A motion to reject the bill tabled by pro-life activists and far-right MPs had been rejected on Wednesday.

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