Some 40,000 people took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to protest against controversial proposals to weaken France’s abortion laws.
On Monday, France’s National Assembly began a debate on changes to abortion laws that would allow women to terminate a pregnancy without proving they are in “distress”.
The ‘March for Life’ protesters said the proposals would “totally trivialise” abortions.
Under France’s current laws a woman can terminate a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks if she can prove that she is in a “situation of distress”.
France’s former Prime Minister François Fillon described the proposed changes as a “moral and political fault”.
“It is a moral fault as it risks trivialising abortion” and “it is a political fault as it risks once again dividing the French”, he added.
France’s minister for women’s rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem who is defending the proposed changes, described the term “in distress” as obsolete.
But the leader of France’s centrist party, the Union of Democrats and Independents – which claims some 50,000 members – said weakening abortion laws would open a “Pandora’s box”.
Fillon added that according to the minister who introduced the abortion laws in 1975 abortion should remain an “exception”.
On Sunday many paid tribute to Spain’s recent move towards tougher abortion laws by waving the Spanish flag and shouting “viva Espagna”.
Last month, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy approved proposals allowing abortions only when the mother’s life is in danger or when the pregnancy is a result of rape.
The Spanish government also accepted a proposal in the draft law that will deny women the option to abort on request if the foetus is malformed.
Some 225,000 abortions were performed in France in 2010 according to the French Directorate for Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics. The state began reimbursing the total cost of abortions in April last year, after passing a Bill in 2012.
The current proposals are part of a wide-ranging bill, which also seeks to address paternity leave and ban beauty pageants for children under 13 years old.
France’s National Assembly will vote on the proposals on Friday, the day French President Hollande meets Pope Francis.