Abortion Trends in France, 1990-2005

Demographic developments in France
By Clémentine Rossier, Laurent Toulemon, France Prioux, Madeleine Grieve


Abortion was legalized in France in 1975. Several amendments to the Abortion Act were passed in 2001 aimed at facilitating women’s access to pregnancy termination. In particular, the maximum gestational age at which elective termination may be performed (the legal limit) was extended by two weeks. Data from induced abortion notifications can be used to study the impact of these amendments, by using the gestational age at termination as an indicator of difficulty in accessing termination services. Following the legalization of medical methods of contraception in France in 1967, the decline in unplanned pregnancies and elective terminations up to the mid-1990s can be attributed to the effective diffusion of medical methods of contraception in the 1970s and 1980s. Abortion rates nevertheless remain high in France compared with other western European countries. This raises two issues that warrant investigation: the persistence or increase in unplanned pregnancies among the youngest women, and repeat abortions by some women in their lifetimes.

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