France passes sweeping gender equality law

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - France has passed a sweeping gender equality law that eases current restrictions on abortion, encourages paternity leave and promotes gender parity at home and in the workplace.

Under the new law passed on Tuesday, women can obtain an abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy without any need to cite a reason. This amends France’s current law, passed in 1975, that gave women the legal right to terminate a pregnancy only if they were in a situation of “distress.” The new law also bans any attempt to prevent women from obtaining 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,” Lilian Sepulveda, director of the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

“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 2013, France adopted legislation requiring the government to pay for all legal abortions as well as contraception for adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 18.

The new law also addresses equality in the workplace, promotes paternity leave and the sharing of domestic duties at home, and provides measures to support women vulnerable to domestic abuse and poverty, according to a bulletin from Marie Claire.